Salt and Light

Carl Bloch's painting depicting Jesus sitting before a crowd and delivering the Sermon on the Mount
The Sermon on the Mount
Carl Bloch, 1890

In the Sermon on the Mount, right after Jesus covers the Beatitudes, He turns His attention to the way we present ourselves to the world. These verses are the natural outcome to our living as He describes in the first twelve verses of Matthew 5. In those verses, Jesus tells us to strengthen our relationship with God through humility and a hunger for righteousness. Then He teaches that we should take God’s grace and forgiveness and share them with others in our own conduct. This will lead us to stand out from the crowd in our priorities, our attitudes, and our conduct.

Matthew 5: 13 – 16:

“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.”

Salt and Light

Salt preserves, and light guides. Both are usually used to improve our lives. In contrast, both can be unpleasant if used incorrectly or overmuch. Neither do any good if they are hidden, and both require us to take action if we’re going to make use of them. Here, Jesus doesn’t talk about how these things can be used improperly; instead He focuses on salt and light as good things.

With salt, it’s no good if it loses it’s flavor. For us, that means that we are unhelpful when we cease to behave in the ways Jesus teaches us to. When we stop hungering for God’s word, when we stop showing mercy and forgiveness, when we let the negativity of this world turn us sour — then we stop profiting God’s purpose for us.

Light provides sight and it is necessary for life to grow. Light guides, and light travels. If we are that light on the hill, then that means we are going out and guiding others to Christ. We’re opening their eyes and then helping them grow in God’s word. His light shines through us in a way that others would want to learn more about our God.

Seasoning and Illuminating

What can you do to help do these things? How do we flavor and preserve the world around us as well as providing light and life? The first and easiest application is to make Jesus part of our everyday conversations. We should be sharing Him with others — not in a hostile argumentative way but in way that opens paths and allows others to see God’s light in our words. This then may lead to further study that allows for nourishment and growth.

Then, our actions must agree with our words. In the Beatitudes, Jesus doesn’t stop at merely hungering for righteousness. It’s not enough to know God’s word. We must live in a way that shines a light toward God. Our conduct must always be gracious, peaceful, and merciful. We should be keeping ourselves pure of heart and reputation. The way we treat other people testifies to the extent we have allowed Jesus to change us.

Worship helps us keep our flavor, and it energizes us to keep shining our lights. Even correction can help us grow stronger. In Acts 18, when Priscilla and Aquila take Apollos aside to help him better understand baptism, we see him then fellowshipping with other Christians and spreading his knew knowledge to others. What’s important in this correction is that Priscilla and Aquila come to Apollos, they correct him gracefully and peacefully. This grows, rather than extinguishes, his light.

Our words and our conduct travels far and wide. These can season others’ live. They can help point others to God. They can grow others’ faith. One example of this is in Acts 16 when we meet Lydia. Here, one woman hears God’s word from Paul and opens her heart. She then shares that word with her family, and God’s word would continue to travel from there. This is a repeated pattern in the New Testament — one person responds to the gospel, and that leads to others who lead to further others. It’s the simple way God travels from one person to the next.

Living to Guide

Sometimes we lose our spiritual seasoning. Sometimes we hide our lights. When we do, we need to seek forgivenesses, forgive ourselves, and then get back to work. We are God’s mouths in this world. We are His arms and His legs. He trusts us to do His work in this world so that others may find Him. We do that by seasoning the lives of others through our behavior and then shining God’s light for them. We use this light to guide others to Him as a beacon of hope in a world so full of darkness. Let’s work together to light our lights and season our conduct so that we can point others to God.

lesson by Alan Miller