Have you ever felt concerned at the hypocrisy in the church? How do we process the failure to live as we ought, with the charge to live as He taught?
Matthew 13 gives us some clues in its description of the Kingdom of Heaven. Here, the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a small mustard seed that grows into a tree where ravens perch. It’s also compared to yeast that rises dough to larger proportions than before (Matt 13:31-33). In Scripture, ravens and yeast are often symbols of evil. And when we see mustard plants growing to a disproportionately large size, it means that the mustard is no longer usable – the overgrowth signifies growth gone wrong. These Kingdom of Heaven parables give us repeated glimpses of an overgrown, bloated church where the kingdom of the enemy grows alongside the Kingdom of God.
These parables warn us of the dangers that lurk within the believing community. They clarify that we should not necessarily equate growth with godliness. They remind us to pursue holiness and lean into those who can help us discern. They challenge us to never underestimate sin’s power to influence us and become too comfortable in Christian company. They are parables that ask us to examine our lives and ask whose image we are enlarging – our own, or His?
Yet the parables are also a tremendous encouragement. In spite of hypocrisy and inadequacy in the church, God is not taken aback. In spite of the danger, God is in control. In spite of the evil, God will build His Kingdom and His Kingdom will prevail. This isn’t a license to be nonchalant with the truth or His church, but rather ignites us to discern and contend with greater zeal and hope (Rom 6:1). While it’s easy to become discouraged at our constant sinful losses, God’s Kingdom purposes will not be thwarted.
Is our confidence in God’s Kingdom prevailing misplaced? The answer to that question arrives a few verses later when the Kingdom of Heaven appears, in Jesus. He gave up all He had in order to buy us – His treasure – out of enslavement to sin with His blood (Matt 13:44-46). Our hope – even as we contend with the hypocrisy, is well placed in its victory. While Satan advances his kingdom to throw us off, God is advancing His Kingdom in and through us, and will be victorious to keep us in.