Salt and Light, Baby
In this final installment from our series on the Sermon on the Mount we probe why Christ would call His followers to be salt and light in their dealings among others. Don’t you think them interesting? Our text is Matthew 5: 13-16. Let’s take a closer look…
Salt of the Earth
If you’ve spent anytime in and among Bible-teaching churches, you’ve likely summaries of the uses of salt – especially in the ancient days. The general idea being that Believers should emulate these characteristics in their daily living among others. One summary might look like something like this:
- Salt enhances flavor
- Salt preserves
- Salt is a cleanser
- Salt overdose ruins flavor
- Salt as payment for wages
Those on the Jesus path, this lesson points out, should enhance the benign and selfish environment encountered in the goals and amusements of folk who pay little or no attention to their spirituality. We should live a life that demonstrates values that endure, that preserve and uplift the human experience. We should hold higher standards and speak out against and cleanse our circle of influence from tyranny and false doctrine. We should not hit people over the head with the Bible, sitting in judgement of others – pushing religious agendas, living an overdose of prideful righteousness We should – as those of old – earn our pay; be “worth our salt” – earn our “salary” and be mindful to gather our individual giftedness to supply the needs of others.
There is another aspect at work here that I would like to point out. Note from the text that once Jesus declares we are to be salt, He does little to expound upon it. He does proceed to explain the benefits and applications of that phrase. What He does do is Warn Us.
- Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? Matthew 5:13
He says big problems follow if you lose your savor; your saltiness, the taste of the Presence of God upon you. But why? Because the Greek word chosen here is “mōrainō” – It means foolish, to play the fool, to prove a person or thing foolish. To lose your saltiness is to prove the Way of Christ as foolish to others. Take that short list just above and drain it.
- When we fail to enhance flavor
- When we fail to preserve
- When we fail to act as a cleanser
- When we overdo our religion
- When we fail to do our duty
When we fail at being a Believer we make Jesus out as a Joke – as foolish. You can see how high the stakes are. How useful is the Believer who fails to have the characteristics of salt among his or her family/co-workers/others – who live in subjection to the desires and pleasures of others – or who live guided by their own intuition? What does Christ go on to say about us when we live like that?
- It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men – Matthew 5:13
To be thrown out. trampled under foot – He is talking about you and I here. Notice that if you are lukewarm in your daily walk – it’s not just that the Christ says you are left on the sidelines – leaving you in some neutral benign state. He says that you will be rejected – by both camps. (1) others will not respect you and the compromises you must make to live like they do. And (2) your usefulness to the kingdom – your inattention to the gift of the Holy Spirit within you – will leave you unfit and uninterested in service to others. Tough talk, right? One more point here
It does not say Honey of the Earth
People like to hear about how much God loves them. But You cannot sugar-coat the Gospel. The Good News is not that God loves us (although that’s true enough) The Good News unfolds once each person encounters the Truth: that each of us are rebellious; carnal; and selfish. We have transgressed against our Perfect and Holy God. And instead of casting us into eternal darkness, He has provided deliverance from our wickedness through the provision of His Son Jesus Christ – who gave His life to ransom us from ourselves. That’s the Good News. But this is not a honey message. We all must first be instructed to see ourselves as rebels. That God does not love us as we are – but that He loves us in spite of who we are – in spite of our best efforts and in spite of our selfishness. He died to pay the price for our renewal; our refreshing; our restoration; and our revival – to offer us a Restart.
But it all starts with you and I facing the emptiness and vanity of our best efforts. And that is the message you need to carry to others – it is not a sweet, honey-coated message. We are to be salt, not honey.
You are the Light of the World
There are several places in the Bible where Believers are brought into equivalence with light:
- Sons of light – John 12:35-36
- Has the light of life – John 8:12
- Lights in the world – Philippians 2:15
- Guides to the blind – Romans 2:19
- Armor of light – Romans 13:12
Light is a symbol used to mean awareness, knowledge, and understanding. To ‘be light’ means to be a witness to others concerning the truth of God’s Word. But in all this Christ does NOT say that you are be light into order to condemn others or stand in judgement of them – quite the opposite really. Lets return to our verse
- You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven – Matthew 5:14-16
Please see the key instruction here. It is not to illuminate others to judge them. It’s not shining a light from some moral high ground. No indeed. The comes from when others view us working – that they may see our good works and give glory to God. The follower of Christ is must be more concerned with doing than anything else. The purpose of the church and the people in it is not simply to congregate but to infiltrate; to be among; to be servants to the world. Light reflects out from the Good Works of God and upon others – it helps them to see.
- For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many – Mark 10:45
I read somewhere that the we are to be people of influence. Not to dominate people – Not to ignore people. But to influence them gently, Salt prevents decay. Light illuminates the darkness. And it for this that we live. Thank for taking time out to read these lines. As I type them I pray for the wisdom and insight of the Holy Spirit to grip you – to motivate you – to provide you opportunity to serve others; to be salt and light among them. I hope the video helps to tie things together better. Lord Bless You as You Go.