Matthew 5: 13-16
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavour? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.”
We are told that even quite small amount of salt is bad for you and may contribute to disease and premature death!
So it’s strange that Jesus uses salt in describing his followers!
Jesus using LIGHT as a description is more understandable…
- Light is (usually) welcome… For example, how wonderful to have light after groping around in the dark!
- Especially in the middle of the night when you are in a strange place trying to find your way to the bathroom!
However, both light and salt are beneficial… light gives us relief from darkness… and salt preserves and protects from decay
Note that Jesus did not say: “You should be the salt of the earth” or “You could be the light of the world”…
He said: “You ARE the salt of the earth” and “You ARE the light of the world”…
- Followers of Jesus Christ have these qualities available to them… We decide whether to and how to employ them!
With respect to our LIGHT, Jesus said that we are to ‘stand on the hilltop’ and ‘let our good deeds shine forth’
- And note that it’s our GOOD DEEDS to which Jesus refers… not how clever or talented we are… not our knowledge or doctrine… not our successes or grand ideas… our good deeds!
We may be tempted to downplay the importance of good deeds for fear of being accused of pursuing a ‘salvation by works’ agenda… but the New Testament writers are clear about their importance…
For example, with reference to widows, Paul writes to Timothy (5: 10) about good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the Lord’s people (serving others humbly), helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds.
And in Hebrews 10: 24… And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds
And in 1 Peter 2: 12… Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (Good deeds have deep significance)
Furthermore, it’s overwhelming to realise that when Jesus spoke about his disciples being light in the world, this is the very description that he applies to Himself…
- Thus in John 8: 12… Jesus spoke to the people once more and said, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.”
And SALT had a special meaning for Jews, as we read in Leviticus 2: 13… Season all your grain offerings with salt to remind you of God’s eternal covenant. Never forget to add salt to your grain offerings.
Notice the key phrase, ‘to remind you of God’s eternal covenant’…
- The use of salt signifies confidence in the eternal promises of God
- Being salt in the world is not just a (negative) means of counteracting decay (like salt on meat) but a positive affirmation of God’s truth and the certainty of His promises
We can sometimes be a bit tentative about expressing publicly our trust and hope in God…
- But Jesus told His disciples to be positive in outlook and action
- Not to be timid about declaring that He is the source of our motivation and power
Being salt and light shows by our words and actions that we serve the Living God and follow His Son, who became Jesus of the Cross
- We need Holy Spirit enabling… but the decision to be bold or timid in our witness lies with you and me… We show it or conceal it
There are other people who, in various ways, let their light shine and do good deeds…
- A Moslem or a Hindu or a Buddhist or secularist or humanist can do good deeds…
However, there are at least three crucial differences between being the salt and light of which Jesus spoke and being a non-follower of Jesus who behaves commendably:
- The Christian’s salt and light comes directly from the salt and light of Jesus through the Holy Spirit…
- We both reflect His glory and have His glory within us
The oft-quoted analogy that our light is equivalent to the Moon reflecting light from the Sun is only half the story! If the Spirit of God dwells within us, we not only reflect His ‘externally received’ light, His internal influence will also be revealed in the way that we behave.
Proverbs 27: 19 reminds us: As water reflects the face, so one’s life reflects the heart.
The spiritual light within our hearts from God will be reflected in our appearance, deeds and decisions.
- The Christian’s salt and light always glorifies God
Thus, we read about Abraham in Romans 4: 20… Yet Abraham did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God
Show me a Christian who just gets on with the job of serving and never seeks adulation or thanks or fame… and I’ll show you someone who wants God to have the glory… That person will receive honour from the Lord
The moment we start to convince ourselves that achievements are all due to “our” abilities or if we stop relying completely on God to work through us, the blessing will quickly dry up…
- In every way and at every opportunity, we must turn the spotlight away from ourselves and towards the only One who is worthy of praise and honour
- We value encouragement and thanks from people for our efforts but vain glorying is disastrous!
- The Christian’s salt and light is an expression of belief (faith, trust) in God’s promises and a commitment to demonstrate His salvation to a watching world
If our ‘salt and light’ fails at any of these three points, we are not being the salt and light to which Jesus referred.
There are implications for our lives …
- We must always invite God the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us… Thus the need for prayer and ‘Waiting on God’ beforehand (not checking afterwards if it is okay!).
- Whatever we do, whether directly evangelistic or social or medical, we do out of love, not duty, and for God’s glory.
- We must recognise that our words and actions may have eternal consequences… Your kindness, devotion, sacrifice, tenderness, patience, longsuffering and perseverance contributes to the building of God’s Kingdom.
Bearing in mind these points, what sort of behaviour will set our light on a hill?
- Our attitude to others… Do we categorise people according to their appearance and behaviour… or see them as those whom God loves and for whom Christ died?
- Our responses to others… Do we tend to be abrasive and dismissive… or courteous, approachable and understanding?
- Our speech and conversation… Does it invariably focus on the weather, the sports results or tittle-tattle… or do we focus (where appropriate) on matters of eternal consequence?
- Our use of time… Do we spend countless hours glued to the television or computer screen/mobile phone or a favourite pastime …or do we make sure that we also spend time in prayerful meditation, carefully reading the Scriptures, using our talents fully and interacting positively with others?
- Our use of money… Such a tricky subject! The key factor is our motivation, as Jesus pointed out when a wealthy religious leader gave much from wrong motives… and a poor lady gave little but from a generous heart, so was commended for it.
JESUS SAID that the world would know that we were His disciples, not by how clever we are — or the quality of our services or the fine words we use or how modern we make our music or even by outreach, campaigns, tract distribution or any other strategy…
He said that people will be truly be impressed when they see our love for one another:
- Including the awkward people and complainers
- And the people who are never satisfied
- And the people that we so often take for granted when we should be cherishing them
People will take note of how much we encourage and bless… and how much we either say nothing or always find fault!
HAVE YOU EVER MET A PERSON WHO SEEMS AGELESS?
- He or she seems comfortable with life, even in adversity
- There’s always a ready smile and a word of encouragement
- There’s a wide-eyed optimism about what God can do and will do, despite the challenges and difficulties…
- She or he leaves you feeling more determined to live for Christ and more confident about your worth and God’s purpose for your life… now that’s being salt and light!