Salt and Yeast

Salt and Yeast (mp3)

In Bible school, I worked in the catering department. Cooking always fascinated me. So, the head chef and I often got into conversation. What might a young Bible student and the head Bible chef talk about? Jesus’ teaching lends itself to plenty of topics… There is always the feeding of five thousand people with nothing but fish and bread, the fact that Mary assumed Jesus would do miracles in the kitchen at Cana, salt, fruit, pork, oil, wine (but don’t tell the Trustees at Moody,) and, of course… yeast.

“Once yeast gets into the dough, you can’t get it out,” the chef would tell me. “And there’s only one way I know of, so far, to kill the yeast once it’s in the dough: fire! And that probably means persecution.”

The yeast of the Pharisees is what we were talking about on that particular day of our Biblical-culinary-contextual exegesis. When Jesus first explained this to His disciples, they thought that the Pharisees actually might have been in the bakery business. Only later did the disciples understand that Jesus was describing the Pharisees’ mis-matched priorities: absolute strictness about things that don’t mater, coupled with absolute compromise on things that matter most. While there is much more that could be said about the yeast of the Pharisees—including the fact that their yeast seems to have worked its way through the American Church—there are two things we know about the yeast of the Pharisees for sure: 1. once it’s in the bread, it doesn’t come out and 2. you don’t want it in your bread!

So, you can see why a young Bible student and a head Bible chef might be curious about yeast. We solved the problem of the Pharisees in the kitchen. Yeast could only be killed with fire. The problem is that, once you fire the bread, you can’t work the dough anymore. Like the goose, the loaf is cooked.

But there was another kitchen-happy ingredient Jesus talked about: salt. If yeast of the Pharisees is the bad cullinary ingredient of Christ’s parables, salt is His secret ingredient.

Salt preserves, purifies, enhances flavor, and includes electrolytes for a healthy body and mind. The problem with salt is that it can be overdone. Salt water is not for drinking: it’s for cooking and healing bruises. And, just like yeast, salt also works its way through food and permanently changes it—for the better.

In a “culture” obsessed with white bread and ethical compromise, “salty people” are a commodity. You know who I mean: people like Ronald Reagan and Rush Limbaugh—you either love them or you hate them. And they have a tendency to persuade even their enemies to agree with them. Salty people never compromise on the truth, even in those times most of us secretly think it’s okay. There are occasions that call for compromise and there are times to stand one’s ground. But salty people arrange those priorities differently from the mainstream. Rather than being hated for rejecting the truth, or accused being wrong about what the truth is, the masses accuse salty people merely of upsetting the apple cart, even when Jesus might have turned the apple cart over. Salt stings… and that’s why we need it.

I never forgot those elevator chats with the Bible chef, just as I never stopped messing around in my own kitchen. A few years after Bible school, I developed my own pizza dough recipe. It took some time… along with flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, temperature… and a lot of kneading. Experimenting in the kitchen is an adventure unto itself. Recently, I wrote my friend, the Bible chef, about a discovery…

When I used too much yeast, I learned that there was a way to kill the yeast without firing the dough: add salt. Of course, the problem is, if I add extra salt to kill the extra yeast, the dough tastes too salty. That means I have to add a whole lot of everything else… flour, water, sugar… In other words, once the chef does what’s necessary to kill the bad yeast, his only option is to make enough pizza dough to feed about five thousand people.

For those of you in my home town of Big Rapids, who like things explained simply, that means, the more God introduces salty people into the Church, the sooner we may see revival. That’s what I hope it means, anyway. Until then, us Christians in Big Rapids will keep enjoying our pizza. There’s plenty to go around, after all.

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