Matthew 5:13-20 – Live as Salt and Light

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

“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.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore, anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (New International Version)

There is a world of people in our sphere of influence, who need to see that Christianity is real and that it works.

Jesus used a few metaphors to help his followers understand their role in society and their effect on the world.

Salt

Obviously, in the ancient world, there was no refrigeration. So, salt was used to preserve food, with the added result that it brought some flavor when the food was eaten. Christians are meant to be a preservative in the culture, helping to stave off worldly decay and rot.

Sometimes, believers in Jesus feel a compulsion to complain about eroding cultural mores, the sad state of public affairs, or the declining value of religion. However, Christians can play a positive role, rather than a negative stance, by being salt in the world.

Christianity is meant to be therapeutic and helpful, adding value to culture and society – and not an added burden to an already bad situation.

Jesus said if Christians lose their saltiness, and are no longer impacting society, they are useless to the culture. Nobody would miss them if they were thrown out into the garbage dump of the street to be trampled on and forgotten.

Christians were never meant to simply exist for themselves. They are on this earth to be the continuing presence of Christ in the world by means of God’s Spirit.

This is not an exhortation from Jesus to be salt, because he says we are salt. It is rather a matter of allowing the world to taste Christianity and find it compelling and flavorful. 

For example, instead of being worried or upset that a low income housing project is being built next to church property, leading to discussions of erecting a fence, a salty Christian response would be to imagine creating a sidewalk so that the neighborhood kids will wander over to the church’s grounds.

Saltiness is a fundamental way of thinking and acting which orients itself around the common good of everyone and the community needs surrounding where Christians live, work, and play.

To drive his point home even deeper, Jesus used a second metaphor to describe what Christianity’s relation to the world is to be like….

Light

In the ancient world, there were no artificial lights. At night, it was pitch black. In the dark, any light, even a small candle, makes a real difference.

An individual person may mistakenly believe their life does not make much of a difference. Yet, it does! One person exhibiting the characteristics of humility, gentleness, grace, and peacemaking is able to have significant penetration into the darkness.

Here are some ways the church has always brought light into the darkest times of history:

  • Taking-in and adopting unwanted children who would otherwise be victims of infanticide.
  • Ministering to the sick and dying during periods of plague and disease, while others fled.
  • Caring for prisoners who had no family to provide them with necessary food and clothing.
  • Giving benevolence and kindness to the poor – especially to immigrants, widows, and orphans.

Christianity is designed to take a proactive approach – and not just a passive policy of waiting for needy people to show up – by searching, identifying, and meeting the needs of people.

The reason religious people wondered about Jesus and his teaching is because Christ offered a different perspective than what they typically heard. 

Jesus was concerned to uphold basic Old Testament ethics by offering a distinct interpretation that the Law is fulfilled in himself. For example, the entire book of Leviticus (which reads something like a B-grade slasher film) is a detailed account of regulations concerning the sacrificial system – with the actual intent of all these laws to expose sinfulness, and the need for a once-for-all sacrifice that would take care of the sin issue altogether. The ceremonial law was not intended to be permanent, but to be fulfilled by the Messiah, Jesus.

Christ made it clear that all of Scripture is important; not the slightest detail is unimportant. True righteousness shows itself when Christians do the right things for the right reasons.

Christians are people of the Word. They are to learn Scripture, know it, and live it. One opportunity of doing this is based on an ancient way of reading the Bible called Lectio Divina (Latin for “spiritual reading”):

  1. Lectio (reading with a listening spirit)
  2. Meditatio (reflecting or meditating on what are hearing from God)
  3. Oratio (praying in response to what I hear from God)
  4. Contemplatio (contemplating what I will do to live out the text)

Through listening, reflecting, praying, and obeying, Christians allow Holy Scripture to spiritually shape and form them into the people of God – thus becoming salt and light in the world.

May you discover the light of God’s grace through being a person of the Word.

May you be salty, flavorful and preserving the world in which you live.

May you know and connect with Jesus.

May Christianity be seen, felt, and known as the contribution to this old world it was always meant to be. Amen.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s