But if, when the priest examines it, the mold has not spread in the fabric, the woven or knitted material, or the leather article, he shall order that the spoiled article be washed. Then he is to isolate it for another seven days. After the article has been washed, the priest is to examine it again, and if the mold has not changed its appearance, even though it has not spread, it is unclean. Burn it, no matter which side of the fabric has been spoiled. If, when the priest examines it, the mold has faded after the article has been washed, he is to tear the spoiled part out of the fabric, the leather, or the woven or knitted material. But if it reappears in the fabric, in the woven or knitted material, or in the leather article, it is a spreading mold; whatever has the mold must be burned. Any fabric, woven or knitted material, or any leather article that has been washed and is rid of the mold, must be washed again. Then it will be clean. – Leviticus 13:53-58
This passage comes after an extensive discussion about molds and how to deal with them. What this passage and previous passages are interested in determining is if the mold is a “defiling mold” and if it is spreading. Molds are an interesting organism. They are a type of Fungi, just like mushrooms. They spread and propagate via microscopic spores that can survive harsh and dry conditions. Those microscopic “seeds” that molds send out make baby molds somewhere else where conditions are favorable. I am pretty sure I am allergic to mold spores. Molds are really hard to get rid of once they start to grow. Especially if you you do not have access to the chlorine bleach and other modern antimicrobials. The washing described probably tended to spread the molds, unless they boiled the items for a while, which interestingly is not one of the remedies described.
We had a black mold problem in a house we used to live in. It was probably due to poor ventilation and water leaks under the house. I can still remember the day it fell to me to venture into the crawl space under the house to look for the water leak. I got dressed up in my Carhartt coveralls, duct taped the legs around my boots and the arms around my gloves. I did not want to acquire any new friends while I was down there! I donned my stocking cap and made my way into the wet, smelly, crawl space. As I crawled, because that is what one does in a “crawl space”, I was about halfway to my destination when I came nose to nose with a mummified mouse. Maybe he had come down to look for the leak too and did not make it out. I eventually found and fixed the leak, although it turned out that our mold problem was bigger than one leak. So what did I learn from my experience? Hire a plumber!
What larger spiritual truths can we gain from mold you may ask. Excellent question! This is one of those passages where I pray, reflect, stare at my screen…..and wait on God to help me out. Mold and Fungi are decomposers. They tear down and break apart growing things after they die or in the case of fabrics, after the organic material is made into a cloth or clothing. What “growing things” are there in Christendom? Two things come immediately to mind: 1) Us (I believe all Christians are on a journey, hopefully growing to be more like Christ); 2) the body of Christians that is referred to as the “church” (not a specific church or denomination that is another discussion).
So the first one is “us”. What things try to tear down or decompose our growth as followers of Christ? One of the best explorations of this is a book by C.S. Lewis called the Screwtape Letters. If you are a new Christian and you are wondering about growing as a Christian and how to avoid pitfalls I highly recommend reading this book. The book is a fictional account of a series of letters between Screwtape, a senior demon tempter, to wormwood his “nephew” a junior demon tempter. The letters describe the spiritual battle going on “behind the scenes” in the life of Wormwood’s “patient”, who is a new christian. Here is one of my favorite quotes from this book:“When He [God] talks of their losing their selves, He means only abandoning the clamour of self-will; once they have done that, He really gives them back all their personality, and boasts (I am afraid, sincerely) that when they are wholly His they will be more themselves than ever.”
How about the second growing thing mentioned above — the church (again not a building but the body of believers). Church buildings unfortunately can be “moldy” places sometimes. There can be festering “leaks” which make for a great environment for destructive molds to develop and become defiling and spreading molds. The metaphorical molds I am speaking of are things like division, hidden sin, poor communication, and pride. How many times has a church ended up with a 2nd or 3rd (fill in the denomination) church of wherever because some issue in the church was not talked about openly or resolved. The steady drip, drip, drip of division results in a defiling and spreading mold until there is a much larger problem of people leaving the church (the building), and even worse people leaving the body of Christ.
Prayer: God help me to see the areas of my life and my church that have gotten moldy. Give me the grace and wisdom to help clean them up.