After reading through commentaries and much discussion, I realized that these parables are often misunderstood. The miscue, possibly, comes from the parable of the sower in which the seed represents the gospel or the Word of God. However, as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote in The Hound of The Baskervilles: “The world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes.” God often explains Himself, if we will simply look for the definitions. First, allow me to quote the passages where these parables are recorded:
“Another parable set he before them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is like unto a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field: which indeed is less than all seeds; but when it is grown, it is greater than the herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the heaven come and lodge in the branches thereof. Another parable spake he unto them; The kingdom of heaven is like unto leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.”
(Matthew 13:31-33, ASV; see also Mark 4:31-32 and Luke 13:18-21)
Let us define the mustard seed and the leaven. God defined it himself: “The kingdom of heaven is like…mustard seed…” (Matthew 13:31) “The kingdom of heaven is like… leaven…” (Matthew 13:33). Both the mustard seed and the leaven represent the kingdom of heaven. What is the kingdom of heaven? In Matthew 4, Jesus talks about the kingdom being at hand (soon to arrive). He speaks of the kingdom being full of people who do the will of God (Matthew 5:20, 7:21). We can conclude then, that the kingdom of heaven is people. Specifically, people who do God’s will, or Christians. The parable is teaching us something about the church.
What, then, do these parables say Christians should do? In the parable of the mustard seed, the seed—which is the smallest of all seeds—grows and becomes the greatest in the garden. I know often we think of mustard being a small herb. This is not the same plant to which Jesus refers. Let us remember that He is teaching people living in the land described as “flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8,17 and others).” It was a place where a cluster of grapes was so big, they had to have two men carry it upon a staff (Numbers 13:23). Clarke’s commentary records several historical records which indicate that the mustard tree grew as large as a fig tree and one man recorded being able to climb the branches of his mustard tree. This is what Jesus referred to, not an herb or bush, but a large tree. So, from such humble beginnings of a carpenter’s son and His followers, the kingdom of heaven would grow and become large. It would become larger than any other kingdom.
In the case of the leaven, this small amount of leaven hidden in such a great amount of meal or flour, changes the flour and makes the whole to rise. In the same way, the kingdom of heaven (small at first) grows and changes the world. It first began with the apostles teaching Christ’s doctrine in Jerusalem, then spread to the whole world (Colossians 1:23). After His death, there were only 120 disciples meeting (Acts 1:15), but on the day of Pentecost that number soon became over 3,000 (Acts 2:41) and then even more than that (Acts 8:1, 4).
This makes me think of the phrase, “dynamite comes in small packages.” What wonderful power and influence Christians have upon the world! God’s plan is that we be about His business of changing the world through the transforming power of the Gospel.
The leaven had a work to do in the meal. Its job was to change and transform. The job of the church is to change and transform as it did in the first century. The church causes the world to rise to a higher standard of moral living. Are we about our Father’s business in this world? Is the church still transforming the world? Are we working to grow the church in numbers? How is the growth of the church doing now as compared to soon after its humble beginning?
Here are some simple things we as ladies can do as our part of working to transform the world:
1. Teach our children
How awful would it be to be working diligently in the kingdom, but to lose the souls of our own family? We must be
working to bring them with us to heaven. On the other hand, let us not be so focused in raising our children ‘right’ that we forget to work in the kingdom. Bring your children with you as you go about and work in the kingdom. Let them join you in serving your Creator.
2. Teach those around us
As women, we are limited in how we can teach. We cannot usurp authority (1 Timothy 2:12). However, there are many ways we can teach:
~Be a Bible correspondence teacher:
People from around the world now study lessons and either through mail or email, send the lesson to their teacher to grade. You guide them through their studies and correct them where they err from the scriptures. Many souls have been taught in this manner.
~Teach children and ladies classes in your congregation
~Write articles for ladies bulletins, magazines, e–zines.
~Use social media to share sermons, articles or other material.
3. Serve and Love
~especially those of the “household of faith” (Galatians 6:10)
~those of the world
Many of these things demand that we teach God’s Word. If you don’t know God’s Word, your first step is to study it. As someone once said, “Get into this Book, until it gets into you.” Study it, know it, teach it. 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to be ready always to give an answer to all men everywhere that ask you for the hope that is within you. There should come a time when we can teach (Hebrews 5:12).
Not everyone is in a position to teach. Maybe you can offer babysitting services or drive someone to a study so that they can teach. Monetary support for teachers is also necessary; maybe you can provide in this way. Make sure you are both in a support system for teachers and studying yourself so that you may one day teach.
The kingdom can once again grow as it did in the first century, but only if it works to do so. We, as members of the kingdom of God, have a responsibility to work and grow the kingdom. How are you willing to do so?
Dawn Pasley has been married to her college sweetheart, James, for 20 years. They have 5 children: Xander (12), Abigail (9), Julia (4), Keturah and Kezia (2). She is a stay at home, homeschooling mom who enjoys spending time with family. She and her family attend Ferriday Church of Christ in Ferriday, Louisiana. Besides teaching children’s Bible classes, she enjoys grading correspondence courses and volunteering her time writing for the encouragement of the church.