I have an interest in the origins and validity of phrases. I know, that sounds exciting. But, stick with me. Here is a phrase I was thinking on the other day: “One rotten apple will spoil the whole bunch.” I wondered if this was accurate. Interestingly, it is a true statement. As apples ripen, they release ethylene, a hormone that is a ripening agent. Over-ripened apples release the hormone in high amounts, causing other apples stored nearby to ripen faster and rot sooner. So, it’s true that one bad apple can ruin the whole bunch. (Fun tip: Want to ripen an avocado? Stick it in a paper bag with an apple overnight.)
In Matthew’s Gospel, we discover a conversation Jesus had with His disciples. Earlier the Pharisees and Sadducees (religious leaders) had asked Jesus “to show them a sign from heaven.” Jesus responds by explaining that they have failed to see the sign present in His person walking among them. We are told that Jesus and the disciples leave and head across the Sea of Galilee. Once they arrive on shore, they discover that they have forgotten to bring bread (Matt 16:5). Then we read: “Jesus said to them, ‘Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees’” (Matt 16:6). The disciples miss Jesus’ point. Matthew reports that the disciples begin to frantically discuss their failure in packing some bread. Jesus, aware of their conversation, addresses them:
“O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? How is it that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matthew 16:8-11).
I can totally see myself, like the disciples, dealing with the same misunderstanding. Jesus is speaking of how the negativity and falsities of the Pharisees can infiltrate and corrupt and ruin what is good. After Jesus’ explanations we read: Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees” (Matt 6:12).
I picture the Pharisees and Sadducees as rotten apples and Jesus warning the disciples not to get bundled up in their spiritual decay. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not believe in Jesus, in part, because He did not fit into their mold. Their negativity and falsities could begin to undermine the disciples growing belief in Christ. Jesus warns the disciples to not allow these bad apples to ruin the bunch.
As I chew over this account, I come to a realization. I don’t want to be a bad apple. I want to make sure I am a positive force for Christ and immersed and representing His truth. I don’t want to do anything that would disrupt a person’s journey with Christ. I don’t want to be rotten and certainly don’t want to contribute to anyone else’s spiritual decay. I will be watchful and cautious of bad apples and committed to placing myself in God’s hands so I will have fresh faith. Empowered by the Spirit, I want to bear good fruit.
It is a privilege to serve alongside each of you. Together let’s avoid the influence of the bad apples in our life as we trust the Lord to give us an invigorated spirit. I trust God will be faithful to us as we place ourselves in His capable hands so He can bless us as He continues to use us to bless others.