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Discovery Magazine 4/1/1999

There’s A Fungus Among Us!

If you came home from school one day and asked your mother what you were having for supper, what would you think if she said, "Well dear, tonight we’re eating a fungus for supper"? You would probably say, "Fungus? Yuck!"

But wait. Actually, fungi can make a very good meal when used properly with other foods. For example, when your mom serves her big, hot yeast rolls with your meal, did you know that the yeast that went into the rolls before they were cooked is a type of fungus? When yeast is put into bread dough, it feeds on sugars. As it does, it gives off a gas called carbon dioxide (die-OX-ide). This makes the dough rise (get bigger). Then, when the dough is cooked, the yeast is killed by the heat. So, you’re eating a dead fungus in your bread!

Nowadays, you can buy baker’s yeast to make bread. But in Bible times, they had to save a little piece of uncooked dough from each baking session. This was called leaven. They mixed this leaven with flour and water, and left it for a while so the dough could rise. Before putting it in the oven, they pulled off a piece of dough and saved it for the next round of baking.

In the Law of Moses, there was a special time when the people of God could not eat leavened bread. This was to remember the time when they had to leave Egypt in a hurry, and could not wait for the dough to rise. For a week beginning at Passover, they had to clear all the leaven from their houses, and they could eat only unleavened bread (read Exodus 12:13-20). Centuries later, Jesus ate the Passover feast before He died. When He blessed the unleavened bread, Jesus asked His disciples to remember His body by eating this bread (Luke 14:19).

There is nothing wrong with eating leavened bread at other times. Still, people in Bible times often used "leavened" and "unleavened" to talk about things that were pure versus things that were evil. Paul did this when he told the Christians to stop boasting about sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8). "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump?" So "purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened. For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us." Christians must be like fresh, unleavened lumps of dough. If we get rid of the leaven, we can have a good influence on those around us, and live as Christ wants us to live.



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