Matthew 5:13 "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 by men. 14 "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. 17 "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
After completing high school, Molly, a Christian, managed to break into the work force. The first day of work showed her she was hardly ready to deal with the things the “real world” was going to direct her way. The lurid language of her fellow employees, the ungentle jokes of her boss as well as the cruel comments made by almost everyone shocked her.
Shaken, Molly returned home and told her parents she wasn’t going back.
Before she had finished sharing her lament, her father interrupted. It was something he seldom did. Dad asked, “Honey, where do you put a light?” She stumbled in her one-person rant, thought for a second, and then decided to ignore what her father had asked. She continued to tell her parents about what she had endured.
Her topic-changing father asked again: “Where do you put a light?”
Exasperated, Molly replied, “Dad, what does that question have to do with what I’m saying? What do you mean? You put a light where it’s dark.”
“Honey,” her dad said, “the Lord has put you into a place where you, a Christian, are being given the opportunity to reflect the light of Jesus. You are to shine His light into a dark place. Go to work tomorrow, and let His light be shown and shared with those folks in the darkness, so they can see Jesus. Your mother and I shall pray that their darkness will not undermine you or cause your witness of faith to flicker.”
I like Christian fathers who talk that way.
Unlike the weak and wimpy dads who are shown on TV, real Christian fathers have wisdom, insight, and a spirit of encouragement. And our children desperately need what Christian parents can give them! Our children are growing up in an ever-increasingly un-Christian world. Immorality pours out of their earbuds. Valueless TV streams into their blank stares. Selfishness clouds their judgments. Boredom causes them to get into trouble.
This should not be surprising to us since the earth is evil and corrupt and needs to be salted. The world is shrouded in the darkness of sin and unbelief and death and needs to be lighted. We know this. We experience this. So what are we supposed to do? Jesus tells you in His Sermon on the Mount. He teaches that you are the agents of change in this world. You are the influence in your children’s lives. You are the inspiration for those who have lost hope. Jesus teaches that you are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
Salt in Jesus’ time was precious. Salt was used to preserve food since there was no refrigeration. Salt was used to sprinkle on a dish to tickle the taste buds. Sacrifices were sprinkled with salt to purify them before they were offered to the Lord. Salt was used to disinfect wounds and was rubbed on the skin of newborn babies to protect them from various diseases. Salt was used by the Egyptians for preserving the corpses of the dead.
Salt is useful stuff. Think of how much tastier your soup is with a little bit of salt or how precious road salt is now that there is a shortage because of our long winter.
You are the salt of the earth. Notice right off the bat that Jesus doesn’t say, “You need to become salt” or “You need to get to work on your saltiness” but “You are salt.” It’s a given, granted by Jesus Himself. The follower of Jesus has no option but to be salt.
Jesus calls you salt because you are precious. You serve a purpose. You are baptized to be the salt of the earth. You are baptized to be the light of the world. Jesus calls you salt not because of how much you can do, but because of how much He has done. He loves you. He declares you forgiven of your sin. He has spared you from hell. He chases the devil away from you. He has rescued you from death. He has made you His own. He sets you apart from the rest of the world for His purpose.
That purpose is to simply tell others what Jesus has done for you. Your privilege is to talk about all the wonderful things Jesus did out of love. This is your purpose as the salt of the earth. As Jesus has confronted your sins, now you are to confront the sins of those around you. As Jesus has forgiven your sins, now you are given the opportunity to forgive the sins of the repentant around you.
But this is difficult. Satan wants forgiveness to go unspoken and grudges to be held fast. He wants disagreements to turn into avoidance to turn into loneliness. He is waiting for our love to grow cold and for us to forget about Christ’s salt and light so that we forget about being salt and light to others.
For example, we may not like the kinds of music, TV and social media are children are engaged in, but we don’t reprimand them and delete their music or posts. We may know that our mom’s excessive drinking or our brother’s living with his girlfriend or our best friend’s favorite pastime of stringing together four-letter words are all wrong and harmful, but we are afraid to confront these issues to our loved one’s face. We may talk about the evil behind their backs, but never – never! – to their face.
Sugar and spice and everything nice … that’s what we prefer! That’s what the rest of the world wants. That’s what we like to fill our shakers with. We don’t want to scare anyone off or offend anyone or cause any family problems. It is much easier to compromise than to stand firm on the truths of Scripture. It is a whole lot easier to go along with the flow than to stand firm upon the cross of Christ. Sugar and spice and everything nice keep the peace. … But it can also end up damning the soul!
Martin Luther, in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount writes: “If you will preach the gospel and be of use to the people, you must be sharp and rub salt into their wounds.” The problem, though, as Luther rightly points out, is that our old Adam “does not like to stand in such danger, risk life or limb or suffer persecution, disgrace and defamation.”
We are to take on the difficult task of being salt in an unsalty world. Even if people do not listen, we have done our duty. Then we have honored what God has made us to be. However, if we do not do our duty, then we will stand before the Lord on Judgment Day and we will observe those on Jesus’ left pointing at us and accusing: “They never told me!” Then we will hear Jesus’ sentence of judgment: “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
The Bible says, “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). You have been called out, set apart, chosen for a purpose. Wherever God has shaken you out – in your home, your school, your work, your community – there you are salt, seasoning your little corner of the world.
You have no choice really. You are the salt of the earth. Like it or not, to be a disciple of Jesus makes you salt. Not sugar. Sweetness is not what the kingdom of God calls for. Salt. Biting, stinging, preserving, purifying.
Please understand that you can do more through your life of Christian love than any kind of preaching from the pulpit or money spent on church advertising or any kind of evangelism program. Your life is the salt that penetrates the hardest heart. Your Christian love adds flavor to an otherwise bland life. Your example of Christian living may work to preserve and purify another person’s eternal soul.
Jesus is the salt that preserves your soul by pointing out your sins against Him. He is the salt that purifies you with His perfection. He is the salt that never loses its saltiness. He is the salt that heals your wounds, both physical and spiritual. He is the salt that prepares your body for death and life beyond death. He seasons your speech with salt (Colossians 4:6).
We also know that this world is very dark. The Lord knows it, too. In order to dispel the darkness, Light from Light, true God from true God (Nicene Creed), entered our world. He is the Strong Word (Christian Worship #280) that cleaved the darkness at creation. The Strong Word that cleaved the darkness at His incarnation as God took on human flesh in the darkness of Mary’s womb. The Strong Word that cleaved the darkness of Satan’s temptations, the Pharisees murderous threats and Pontius Pilate’s cowardice. The Strong Word that cleaved the darkness that shrouded the Judean countryside on Good Friday. The Strong Word that cleaved the darkness when He burst forth from the tomb on Easter dawn. The Strong Word that now bespeaks you righteous and forgiven and gives you life. And no ordinary life, but His own life, the life of Christ. A new life that motivates our children to sing “for the Lord is our light.” A new life that professes, “I want to live as a child of light” (Christian Worship Supplement #771).
As Christian parents, Christian citizens and members of the Christian Church, we are called to be a part of a counterculture which works hard to shine the light of Christ into the shadowy corners of the world and the dark recesses of people’s souls. You are light, shining the Light of Christ. You are the moon, reflecting the greater light (Genesis 1:16) of the Son.
This is your identity. This is your calling. It is part and parcel of who Christ made you to be. No one else has this calling – only children of God in Christ Jesus. Because the Holy Spirit has enlightened you in Christ, you are to be whom Christ has created you to be. Let your light shine and “live such good lives among the pagans that … they may see your good deeds and glorify God” (1 Peter 2:12).
Recently, one of our public high school students was assigned to write a paper for his class. While other students wrote about bullying or cheating, he chose to write about abortion. I read the paper. It was very strong. He rightly called abortion a sin and murder of the unborn. He is Christ’s salt in an environment that needs preservation and purity.
The grandmother of another high school student was dying and his family had determined to turn off the life support. He was adamant that wasn’t right so he called me to discuss what God had to say. His mom told me later that her son was a man that day. He was the light of Christ in a place overtaken by the shadow of death.
These young men are no different from us. Except that maybe they have the courage to speak out.
They, like you, have been given an incredible honor and purpose in life. You are salt and light. Jesus is teaching that your life is not pointless or useless. You are not a child of God standing on the corner waiting for the bus to heaven. You are the living, breathing example of the Gospel. You are not living on the defensive, just trying to survive. You are on the offensive against Satan. Your good works are like salt on that satanic slug. Your good words are like light that scatters his demonic cockroaches.
In this portion of His sermon, Jesus is teaching that the starting point for sharing your faith in Christ is first living your faith in Christ.
As the Molly’s dad said, “We are being given the opportunity to reflect the light of Jesus.” You are salt. You are light. Amen.