“You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world… let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mat 5:13-16 NKJV)
Immediately following the Beatitudes, Jesus continued in His “Sermon on the Mount” by speaking about Salt and Light. In the Context, It appears that He was speaking of the tangible ways we affect our culture and acquaintances. Jesus made it clear that we are to be a positive force coming into active contact with our culture.
“You are the Salt of the Earth.” “You are the Light of the World.”
Salt must be touched or tasted to have real affect. For it to be effective, salt must be in contact with a thing. To taste salt, it must touch our tongues. For salt to act as a preservative or cleansing agent it must be in contact with the item being preserved or cleansed. By its very nature, salt is only effective if it is in direct contact with its surroundings.
Salt in the shaker doesn’t affect the food. Salt in storage doesn’t preserve or cleanse. It must be out of the shaker to be effective. It must make contact with matter to have impact.
Light, in the sense of being a city on a hill and letting your light shine before men, is effective only as it is visible. A light that is hidden is really of very little value, at least as far as illumination is concerned.
After the beatitudes, Jesus speaks to what He desires His followers to be. The terms He uses are descriptive of His expectation of them. They are to be in touch with and visible to their communities. As salt they are to cultivate a hunger and thirst for righteousness in the people around them. As salt they are also to work to preserve godly values and promote reverence for Almighty God.
As light they are to be visible representations of Heaven, beacons that point others to the Glorious God and Father of us all.
So how does one practically become salt and light?
I believe it really boils down to our behavior and activities. Now many people will get bent out of shape at the idea of works being mentioned in conjunction with the Christian life, but it is very clear that Jesus had a solid idea in mind when He told us that we are salt and light. This was not some ethereal concept. He states very clearly that we are to be visible and in contact with our world in a positive and God honoring way.
This is really only visible to the world around us by the things we do or don’t do. So often we forget about the spectators of the Gospel. There are those around us who not only want to hear the good news they want to know that it works in a life. To say that the Gospel really worked for me, but not give any evidence with my life would be sure to raise doubts in the mind of an alert observer.
Jesus said, “Let your light so shine before men…” We might speculate as to the nature of this light and how it should be visible, except for the fact that Jesus doesn’t leave us perplexed as to how this light is seen. He continues, “…that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven.”
That they may see your good works – but isn’t this a bit legalistic? Good Works? How else do you let your light shine? How else do people have any clue where the city is? Let your light so shine before men. The idea is that as salt, your works will come in contact with your community and the character of your works (read “good”), will be the light. On being affected by your good works, your community will glorify God your Father rather than you.
This is quite simply the nature of salt and light. Salt that no longer possesses the characteristics of seasoning and preserving is cast out as useless. Light that is no longer visible is rendered ineffective. So, what are the implications for us as Christians?
I believe very simply, if we are Christians, our lives will have the effect of seasoning and preserving the lives and relationships around us. If our lives are not doing this, I believe it is an insult to the cause of Christ. Jesus said, “…if the salt has lost its savor (effectiveness)…it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out…”
So am I saying the Gospel is about performance? Am I saying that it is about what I do? Not really, although my actions will reveal if I am truly salty or not. If my actions and interactions in the culture do not create a thirst for Jesus in others, than I have to ask if I really possess the quality of salt.
If my actions and interactions have no impact in pointing people to God, then I should certainly consider if I am light. This teaching on light is especially important because Jesus is called the light of the world (John 1:4, 5, 9). Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount is essentially proclaiming a truth to His disciples that should only be understood as a result of His work and presence in their lives. There is no way any of us can generate a light on our own that will result in glory to the Father in Heaven.
The prophet Isaiah, warned us of the futility of trying to create our own light. “Look, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with sparks: Walk in the light of your fire and in the sparks you have kindled— This you shall have from My hand: You shall lie down in torment.” (Isa 50:11 NKJV) So, I can’t create the light that I am to be. That is good news, because here then is the comfort. I don’t create the light that the world sees. No, in fact, if anything good is to shine through my life, it will be because the Light of the world, lives through me.