A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
A familiar proverb applied in the present instance to doctrinal errors, introduced by a small party of Judaizers, but tending to spread through the whole community of Galatian Christians. The proverb is useful, however, as a caution against the spreading of evil generally.
I. THE PRINCIPLE. Evil is like leaven.
1. It has a life of its own. Leaven is the yeast-plant. We must not neglect evil with contempt as an inert dead thing. A low and horrible kind of life infests the remains of death. The lower in the order of life the organism is the more persistent will its vitality be. Yeast may be preserved dry for months and yet retain its power of fermentation. The most degraded forms of evil are the most difficult to destroy.
2. Evil, like leaven, spreads rapidly, Leaven is the chosen emblem of evil, just on account of its extraordinary rate of growth. While the Church slumbers her enemy is sleepless. If we are not actively resisting evil it will be constantly encroaching upon the domain of goodness. It is folly to neglect a small evil. A child may stamp out a flame which, neglected, would burn a city. Scotch the young vipers while they are yet in the nest, or the brood will crawl far and wide beyond our reach.
3. Evil, like leaven, assimilates what it touches. The best men are injured by contact with it. All the powers and faculties of the individual, all the resources and institutions of the community, are brought under its fatal spell and turned to its vile uses. 4 Evil, like leaven, is associated with corruption. Fermentation is the first stage of decomposition. The leaven of evil is the leaven of moral rottenness and death.
II. APPLICATIONS OF THE PRINCIPLE.
1. Doctrinal. A small error unchecked grows into a great perversion of truth. A lie once admitted spreads deceit and confusion in all directions.
2. Ecclesiastical. The Jewish custom advocated by a few of the Galatian Christians seemed to some, perhaps, an insignificant matter. But if it had been permitted to spread, undoubtedly it would have broken up the whole Church.
3. Moral. (See 1 Corinthians 5:6.) The taint of immorality spreads like a noxious contagion,
(1) in the nation - for the whole country's sake we must not allow "the residuum" to sink into corruption;
(2) in the Church - hence the necessity of reviving Church discipline;
(3) in the individual - small faults breed great sins. Beware of "the little foxes that spoil the grapes." - W.F.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.