“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.” Matthew 5:13-16
In today’s passage Jesus uses the metaphor of salt and light to describe how his followers are to interact with the world. But what does Jesus mean when we says that as his followers we are to be salt and light to the world.
The first metaphor that we are going to start with is being “the salt of the earth”. Jesus’ followers, at the time this was written, would have easily related to the properties and benefits of salt as Jesus described them in his metaphor. (1) Salt seasons and flavors food, just as Christians should enhance and favorably influence the people and society around them. Salt is a preservative, just as Christians and the church should resist moral corruption and decay, preserving a Godly influence on the culture. In addition, salt has healing properties, just as Christ’s followers must help bring healing to people what are hurting physically, emotionally and spiritually. Salt also creates thirst, just as Christians-through their good example-should create spiritual thirst or desire in others to know more about God. (2) Individual Christians and churches that lose these qualities will become spiritually “lukewarm” (unconcerned, unresponsive and lazy), a condition that suppresses or destroys the activity and power of the Holy Spirit. Without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, churches will completely lose their effectiveness and will rejected and “thrown out” by God. (3) As a result, these Christians who are no seasoned with salt will be “trampled by men”, which means they will end up giving in to the ways and values of an ungodly society. And taking this path will bring destruction in the end.
The second and last metaphor that Jesus used was “the light of the world”. In Jesus’ time, people used small clay lamps that burned olive oil drawn up a wick. As Christians, we should be like these simple lamps, providing light in the spiritually dark conditions of this present world. Our lives should stand out from other people in society in a positive and spiritually enlightening way. After all, genuine faith in Christ cannot be hidden, but will be evident to those around us, many of whom are looking for direction and hope in their lives. As Christians, we have the privilege of lighting the way to God by reflecting the life, love and light of his Son, Jesus. This happens not only through words, but often more effectively through actions. In order to truly show people who Jesus is and what he is like, we must follow his example and be among people as ones who serve. We should actively look for ways to assist others and meet their needs at home, at school, on the job and in every aspect of life. By serving people, we reflect Christ’s humility and show his compassion. We break down barriers of resistance and opposition to the truth of God’s Word and the reality of Jesus’ life-changing power.
We can serve people through simple acts of kindness and by meeting practical needs. Of course, we must “always be prepared to give an answer” for the reason for our hope and the motivation behind our actions. But many people will not pay attention to the message unless it comes from someone who cares enough to meet their practical needs. For example, there may be times when we must give food for a person’s stomach before we can feed his or her soul. Or perhaps we need to help clean up a neighborhood before we try to help clean up the lives of the people living in that neighborhood. When you work against injustice, share food and clothes, help your family and anyone else who is oppressed, “then your light will rise in the darkness” (Isaiah 58:6-10). Through practical service and loving interaction, we open the door to share the bold and true message of Christ. Then we will more likely be able to influence people to consider Christ’s claims, believe his Word and yield their lives to him.