They assume that Jesus it trying to describe what heaven - the spiritual realm - is like. But this would be quite odd, wouldn't it? To try to describe a place by talking about yeast? Or a place by discussing a mustard seed growing into a tree?
Furthermore, why would Jesus put such importance upon trying to describe heaven in his teachings and not be more clear? If he is trying to describe a place, these two parables hardly provide much clarity.
The 'kingdom of God'
Rather, as described with that previous verse, Jesus is not speaking of a location - as implied by the translation of βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ to "kingdom of God."
Again, βασιλεία (basileia) does not refer to a place or location as implied by this and most other ecclesiastical Bible translations.
As stated clearly in Thayer's lexicon, the word means, "royal power, kingship, dominion, rule - 1) not to be confused with an actual kingdom but rather the right or authority to rule over a kingdom."
The topic is thus more complex, and that is why metaphors were used by Jesus.
Let's look again at the Greek phrase. βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ. The last two words, τοῦ θεοῦ, mean "to God" or "of God" or "concerning God."
What is accepting someone else's "kingship" or "royal power"?
We must remember that Jesus is speaking to his students during a time when accepting a king was ultimately a prerogative of each person. These were feudal times, a carry over from days when wandering tribesmen made choices as to what leader - or king - they would take protection of. A person who did not accept the leader that others chose for that region could leave and go to another place, where they could accept and take shelter of another leader. Or they could go out on their own into the desert. Or, if the leader was horrific, as many were, they might just be put to death by not accepting the leader as their king.
But if a person who didn't like their king wanted to survive, they would at least take shelter in that king. They would seek his protection, like it or not, by submitting themselves to the king.
Today in most democratic countries, there is an election and then everyone accepts the winner as the leader. Even if they don't agree with him or her - and criticize the government - they will still accept the leader as their government head - thus taking shelter of that government (i.e., retaining citizenship).
But in non-democratic regions, a leader might fight their way into the kingship, and those who don't accept that rule will be put in prison or killed. This is closer to the feudal times - when Jesus walked the earth and the Romans ruled the land. And if a person didn't accept and take protection of the Roman rule, they would be put in prison or killed.
So what does it mean when a person accepts the kingship of someone - assuming they have a choice? What if, for example, there was a king who gave each person the personal choice to accept him as leader or not? And what if that rule wasn't just about ruling the courts and the laws - but about ruling ones personal life?
What would we call it when a person decided to accept that person's rule?
A person who accepted the rule of such a king would be submitting themselves to that leader. They would be accepting that king as their king and their protector.
They would, in other words, be devoting themselves to the king. They would be taking protection under the king. They would be taking shelter of the king.
Now Jesus wasn't referring to God being the king of a country or land here, as he spoke of accepting the kingship of the Supreme Being.
He is speaking of ones personal relationship with God: Becoming devoted to the Supreme Being and taking shelter of the Supreme Being from within ones heart.
As such, the phrase, βασιλείαν τοῦ θεοῦ would be better translated to:
"taking shelter in God"or
"becoming devoted to God"This means Jesus would be saying:
"What shall I compare taking shelter in God to?"or
"What shall I compare becoming devoted to God to?"
The choice of love
Each of us has this choice in our lives - because this choice is granted to us by the Supreme Being.
The Supreme Being seeks our devotion because He enjoys loving relationships - just as we all pine for true loving relationships.
Yes, just a cursory review of the most popular songs and the most popular movies - they are all related to loving relationships: They are related to gaining a loving relationship, or losing a loving relationship, or losing a child and so forth.
All of these stories and situations are interesting to us because we thrive from loving relationships. In addition to wanting to see and hear about loving relationships, we also seek them in our personal lives.
From childhood, we seek the love of others and we seek to exchange loving relationships. This is why we strive to impress others and this is why we go to such lengths to be a success or be famous - because we link these with gaining love from others. We want others to love us because this is our constitution: We are each built for love.
Forget about evolution and the big bang and DNA and all that molecular crap. In fact, cosmologists are now finally realizing that most of the universe is composed of stuff we cannot see, touch or feel physically. They now say the universe is composed of 70 percent dark energy, 25 percent dark matter and only 5 percent of the universe is the stuff we see around us - the molecules and light and all that stuff. So what is the energy we cannot see made of? They don't know.
Love isn't matter
Matter, DNA and evolution cannot explain our yearning for love. If we are alone in a room and an animal comes into the room we will want to exchange love with the animal. It doesn't matter what kind of animal it is. In solitary confinement prisons, people are known to develop loving relationships with rats. Why?
Because we need love. Love is the energy we need to survive. Forget about the body. Even when a person is lying in the hospital on ventilation and their body is all but dead - they will still seek to exchange a relationship with those around them. They are still seeking love.
So what does this have to do with Jesus' statement?
Because the type of devotion Jesus is speaking of is based upon love. We each can choose where to focus our love upon. We cannot choose whether we love or not - because love is part of our being. We have to love. But we can choose where we put that love.
For example, most of us find in this world that as children, we focus our love upon our parents, and then later upon our school friends and playmates. Then later, we will focus our love upon a person of the opposite sex. After or perhaps before marriage, many of us have children, and then we focus our love upon our children, or perhaps our family in general.
Most will also seek loving relationships outside of the family - perhaps work associates, friends or fans or otherwise. And many will also seek love from a relationship with dog(s) or cat(s) or other pets.
All of this requires: 1) choice and 2) focus. We first make the choice where to put our love. Then we focus our attention on that relationship.
But why all the shifting around? If we look back on our lives at the various "loves" we've had - whether conjugal, family, friends or fans - we find two common traits:
1) None of these "loves" were truly satisfying in the long run
2) All of these relationships ended or will end at some point
Why have we moved from one relationship to the next during our lives? Because the previous one did not satisfy us. If it did, then we wouldn't need the next one, would we?
For example, what about that grade school "crush" we had? Its gone. We moved on. And we probably can't even remember the person's last or even first name. Yet at the time we were completely focused upon having a loving relationship with that person - whether they returned that love or not.
And were we satisfied with that loving relationship? No. We moved on. Same with so many other relationships we've had in our past. Most are now gone, or relegated to a birthday card now and again.
And at some point, their body will die if ours doesn't die first - and we will lose the relationship completely. This also applies to family relationships. Each relationship with each family member will end when the body dies.
Yes, for deep relationships we have here, we may carry some remnant on to our next destination after the death of this body. If we take on another body we may meet up with them in a next life. But the current relationship based on this body will be gone by then. And if we meet up with them in a next life, we won't remember how we knew them before. That relationship will be gone and we'll have to build a new one - even though we might feel that we somehow knew each other previously.
But again, none of these relationships are truly satisfying. They do not fulfill us. If they did, we wouldn't be seeking love elsewhere.
Anyway, most of us in the physical world essentially focus our love onto ourselves. We want 'me' to be happy. This is called self-centeredness. While most might not consider this love - others will call the "self-love."
Why? Because this is where a person ultimately ends up putting their focus upon when essentially none of the "loves" of this world satisfy us. We think that if we love ourselves, then we will be happy because we will make ourselves happy.
Sorry, but this doesn't satisfy us either. We can see this as self-love often turns into narcissism and lust - which often lead to violent activities. Why does self-love lead people towards these self-destructive directions? Because loving ourself also does not fulfill us. Loving ourself does not make us happy. It simply leaves us with emptiness.
Because we were built to love others outside of ourselves - and this is why people always feel better when they are giving than when they are receiving.
Jesus is speaking of another type of loving relationship. He isn't speaking of focusing ones love upon a girlfriend or boyfriend. He isn't speaking of focusing ones love upon the family of this body.
He is speaking of focusing ones love upon the Supreme Being. He is speaking of devoting oneself to the Supreme Being.
Back to Jesus' metaphor:
Why does Jesus compare this to yeast?
"It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into about sixty pounds of flour until it worked all through the dough."Because devoting oneself to the Supreme Being - focusing ones love upon God - is satisfying. It is fulfilling. It transforms our entire being.
Just consider what yeast does to flour: It transforms it into dough, that can then be baked into bread. Not only does it transform it: It also penetrates it completely.
This is why Jesus mentions 60 pounds of flour. That is a lot of flour. Yet, a little yeast will penetrate all of that flour, and transform it into dough that can be baked into bread.
In the same way, devoting ourselves to the Supreme Being will transform each of us, and in turn, all of us. Why?
Because our relationship with God is innate. Each of us has an innate relationship with the Supreme Being. This is why the prophets and Jesus refer to God as our Creator. We are intimately involved with Him.
When we devote ourselves to the Supreme Being we awaken that innate relationship. As our loving relationship with God unfolds, we begin to see just how intimate our relationship with God is.
We are not speaking of intimacy in terms of the body. We are not these physical bodies. The body is a vehicle - a shell. Just as an astronaut gets into a spaceship, we get into and drive these bodies. When the spaceship lands back on earth, the astronaut leaves the spaceship - just as we leave our physical bodies when they die.
Thus our composition is spiritual - we are composed of spirit and we have a body of spirit. This spirit body (each of us) has an intimate relationship with the Supreme Spirit.
But we have - by God's design - forgotten that relationship. Why? Because at one point in the past we wanted to exercise our freedom. We wanted power and authority. We wanted what He has. We became envious of Him and wanted to enjoy as He enjoys - as the master. Why? Because we are at all times given the choice to love Him or not.
So God set up this physical world so those chose not to love Him could play "master" for awhile. Here we can pretend to be heros, superstars, parents, bosses, moguls, leaders and so on. But we find that none of these positions satisfy us. Because they are not our true positions. We are not innately masters. We are innately servants. We are loving servants of the Supreme Being and only this can make us happy.
This is why Jesus' most important instruction was:
“ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27)