In the Will Smith movie, Independence Day, aliens invaded the planet, intent on wiping out the human race so that they could have the planet and its resources all to themselves. Armed with superior technology and massive city-killing ships, these aliens seemed unstoppable. Until a computer genius who worked as a cable repairman came up with the idea to create a virus that would infect the alien ships. Somehow, they flew a downed alien craft onto the mother ship and downloaded the virus. The virus moved out from the point of infection and eventually infiltrated the entire alien fleet, making their ships vulnerable to attack. The human race survived because of a small computer virus which spread out through the alien fleet.
In Matthew 16:6 Jesus warned his disciples, "Watch out and beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees" (HCSB). The disciples were confused and thought Jesus was talking about bread, which they had forgotten to bring with them on this particular trip. Only after Jesus scolded them did the disciples realize that Jesus was concerned about the teachings of the Pharisees and Sadducees. But why did Jesus use the term "yeast" to describe their teachings?
Well, the Pharisees and Sadducees had a lot of things right in their teachings. They both taught that God's commands should be taken seriously and obeyed. They took the scriptures very seriously and taught that honoring God was important. But they both had some problems with their teachings, little things that had a habit of ruining and infecting everything else. Little things like the idea that following the letter of the law was more important than mercy and justice or that God is under an obligation to prove himself (both groups had just demanded a sign from Jesus in order to prove himself). Both groups had a lot of things right, but they had a couple little things wrong and those little things spread throughout the rest of their teachings and infected the whole, just like that computer virus and just like yeast.
We have to be very careful as we live day to day not to get "infected" with little things that can spread and grow and turn into massive problems, like the idea that God is obligated to us or that we have a clear understanding of the big picture, small attitude problems that affect the way we treat people or the effort with which we attempt our daily tasks. Every day we must keep ourselves centered in both the Word of God and prayer in order to guard ourselves against the little things that lead us astray, against those misconceptions and little conceits that have a way of poisoning the good in our lives.
When was the last time you examined your beliefs and attitudes? Are there some major problems in your life that seem to have come out of nowhere? Those "sudden" problems often spring from very little ideas and attitudes whose effects have been amplified by the passage of time. We can never take for granted that we've gotten everything right along the way. And if we never take the time to examine ourselves against scripture or the time to be still and listen to the Spirit speak to us, we might very well have some little ideas that could threaten our growth.
Little problems become big problems if we don't deal with them. Are you dealing with yours?