Salt and Light
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16
In these four verses the Lord directs us in the path He has intended for believers in this world. That path is to be an influence in a cold and unbelieving society. Previously in this chapter Christ had taught the characteristics of believers and of the influence that the world would have upon them in the Beatitudes. He is now saying that whoever lives according to the Beatitudes is going to function in the world as salt and light. He had spoken, particularly in the last few verses, that blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. That is the influence of the world upon the believer. That is the influence that we as Christians have to endure in the culture today.
When we live the life of the Beatitudes some of those that we come into contact with will respond favorably and be saved, whereas others will ridicule and persecute us. In the words of Paul, through us Christ “spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16). In either case our lives have profound effects, and even persecution is not to alter our purpose in this world. We “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that [we] may proclaim the excellencies of him who called [us] out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).
The Beatitudes are not to be lived in isolation or only among fellow believers, but everywhere we go, in all aspects of our lives. God’s only witnesses are believers, and the world has no other way of knowing of Him except through the testimony of who we are in Christ.
“Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13). The world cannot do anything but get worse, because it has no inherent goodness to build on, no inherent spiritual and moral life in which it can grow. Year after year the system of evil accumulates a deeper darkness. We can look around at the culture and the world we live in and see the moral entropy that sin has brought upon us.
Man’s knowledge has greatly improved, but his morals have progressively degenerated. His self-confidence and pride has increased, but his peace of mind has lessened. His accomplishments and his wealth have grown greatly, but his sense of purpose and meaning have all but disappeared. Instead of improving the moral and spiritual quality of his life, man’s discoveries and accomplishments have simply provided ways for him to express and promote his depravity faster and more destructively. There is no peace of mind, no satisfaction, no positive sense of purpose and certainly no joy that is gotten from anything that he has tangibly accumulated or accomplished. There is a constant sense of futility due to the emptiness of purpose to his life. This is the world we have been called to be salt and light to.
The church cannot accept the world’s self-centeredness, easy solutions, immorality, amorality, and materialism. We are called to minister to the world while being separated from its standards and ways. Sadly, however, the church today is more influenced by the world than the world is influenced by the church. If we as Christians and if the Church as Christ’s bride is not salt and light what chance does this world have? The idea is, “You are the only salt of the earth” and “You are the only light of the world.” Christ is emphatic on this point. If God’s people are the salt and light for this world and if God’s people do not listened to His call to action what chance does the world have. The very ones who are despised by the world and persecuted by the world are the world’s only hope. The Christian and the Church cannot lose it’s saltiness or hide it’s light.
The world is full of lost souls who cannot see their way out of the quagmire they find themselves in. Addictions, depression, broken families, greed, avarice, violence and all the other proceeds of living in a sinful world, a lost world, cannot be addressed unless God’s people answer Christ’s clarion call. How will the lost find their way to the Father’s house unless the Father’s house, acting as salt and light, reach out to them? Our work is not only as individual grains of salt or as individual rays of light but it is as the whole church of Jesus Christ.
As individuals we are called on to reflect Christ’s love as a testament to who we are and who He is. People should see Christ in us to the extent that they desire what we have. The joy that we have in Christ is such that we should long that others would also have that very same joy. Salt and light represent what we as Christians are. The only question, as Jesus goes on to say, is whether or not we are tasteful salt and effective light. The very fact that we belong to Jesus Christ makes us His salt and light in the world.
One aspect of Church life that has often distressed me is when a Church sits back and waits for the world to come to them. No meaningful outreach to a dying world. A Church that sits in the proverbial holy huddle is not salt and light. No matter how rich the intra-Church family life is that Church is not obeying Christ’s teaching in Matthew 5:13-16.
Our witness to this culture is commanded not suggested. Our witness as individuals and as a Church are to be a reflection of Christ Himself. We are not to reflect badly on Him. Remember that our salt should not lose it saltiness, our light should not be hidden to the world. We must understand fully that our salt and light is to bring glory to our Father in Heaven and our Lord Jesus Christ. Our lives are to bring glory to the creator of the universe, the author of our salvation, the Alpha and Omega, the Ancient of days, the Beginning and the End, the Blessed Hope, the Desire of all Nations, and the Eternal Father.
Letting our light shine before men allows them to see our good works, the beauty the Lord has worked in us. To see good works by us is to see Christ in us. That is why Jesus says, let your light shine. It is not something we create or make up, but something we allow the Lord to do through us. It is God’s light; our choice is whether to hide it or let it shine.