“You’re such a Pharisee!” he said with a sneer.
Why don’t we ever hear the same thing said about being a Sadducee? Why aren’t we worried about a Sadducaic influence the same way we are a Pharisaic one? I am increasingly afraid that we are so concerned about the leaven of all the potential Pharisees out there, that we are letting the leaven of all the potential Sadducees slip by unnoticed.
Who Were the Sadducees?
The quick and dirty definition of the Sadducees is found in Acts 23:8:
“For Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit…” (ESV)
What is the Leaven of the Sadducees?
I’m not trying to develop a technical definition for Jesus’ point in Matthew 16:6, 11. However, the influence of not believing in the spiritual or the resurrection is a materially oriented religion that focuses on the here and now. Eternity is a false hope of pie in the sky. Those partaking in the leaven of the Sadducees don’t want pie in the sky in the great by and by, they want their best life now. Further, those partaking in the leaven of the Sadducees aren’t as interested in letting people know how they can spend eternal life with God. They focus on how they can help people make this life worth living.
Are We Overlooking the Leaven of the Sadducees?
While I don’t know of any Christians who claim “there is no resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit,” I worry that the Sadducaic leaven is working its way into Christianity. In fact, I am almost certain it has already completely leavened the mainstream religious world’s dough. I believe I see it working its way through many of those who claim to have the same “sola scriptura” plea that I make.
I think I see this leaven in three ways.
1. When we tacitly believe that material blessing is the sign of God’s approval, we are eating the leaven of the Sadducees. A certain belief, teaching, or practice must be right because look at how big the church is that teaches it. How many books are written and testimonies given that tacitly say whatever the authors did must have been the working of God because they received financial blessing?
The rain falls on the just and the unjust. The sun rises on the good and the evil (cf. Matthew 5:45). The sign of God’s approval is His Word.
2. When we pursue the material blessings of this life above knowing Jesus Christ, we are eating the leaven of the Sadducees. Certainly, those who obey God will provide for their loved ones; they are worse than infidels if they don’t (cf. I Timothy 5:8). But when we have time to study Spanish, Calculus, and Physics but no time to study God’s Word, we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees. When we pursue first chair, first string, and first in class above God’s kingdom first, we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees. When we work to afford the larger house, the nicer car, the designer clothes, but not to glorify God and share with anyone in need (cf. Ephesians 4:28), we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).
3. When we believe Jesus came to save society, we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees. When we believe the mission of God’s kingdom is to undo the societal ills of oppression, inequality, and injustice, we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees. Certainly, those who have experienced the mercy and grace of Jesus Christ will go about doing good (cf. Galatians 6:10) and loving their neighbor (cf. Luke 10:25-37). And we must “let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need” (Titus 3:14, ESV). But when we confuse performing an act of kindness and service to help make this life more livable with spreading the gospel which makes the next more livable, we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees. When we go on trips to bring food, water, clothes, and medicine and call it “Missions,” we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees. When we believe that spiritually radical living means feeding the homeless and that biblically crazy love means stopping slave trafficking, we have eaten the leaven of the Sadducees.
And this third one scares me the most because it is so popular, so pervasive, and so persuasive. After all, none of us wants anyone to be hungry, thirsty, enslaved, or homeless. Ending these things is good work. They are even good works that Christians should devote themselves to. But they are not spreading the gospel. They are not the mission of Christ’s kingdom. Jesus did not establish His kingdom to evolve society to the next level. Jesus established His kingdom to save sinners.
“I will add all these things to you so that based on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs you will now seek My kingdom and righteousness”…wait, that’s not a quote of any verse. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33, ESV).
Let Me Try to Bring this Home
I used to hear Christians say, “If we travel land and sea to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, unshackle the enslaved, but they don’t learn the gospel and they die and go to hell, what good have we accomplished?” Now I’m hearing, “If we travel land and sea to preach the gospel, show people how to worship God properly, talk to them about being baptized into Christ but we don’t improve their drinking water or give them more food or better clothes, what good have we accomplished?”
That is the leaven of the Sadducees. And I fear we are missing it.
What do you think?