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Salt and Light

We’ve been talking about how God calls us to be different and doesn’t just call us to make a difference. We see this in Jesus’ sermon on the mount.

Matthew 5:13-16

13 “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.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.

The first thing we should notice is that Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” It’s not his follower’s actions that produce salt and light in the world, it is they themselves. It is the people they have become who are the salt and light of the earth. He does not tell them to be salty or that the things they do will be like salt and light. Being both salt and light is an essential part of the Christian life because as we saw yesterday and Monday God is more concerned with who are in Christ than what you do for Christ.

Let’s dive into this text a little further. What do the metaphors of salt and light mean? Salt had a variety of uses in the ancient world: cleaning and purifying, seasoning, preservation, destruction of crop fields, in the Old Testament it could be put on sacrifices to demonstrate the eternality of the covenant. Deciding which use is in view here is quite difficult with little contextual clues. The most likely options are: 1. the general usefulness of salt to the world, 2. preservation, 3. cleaning, purifying. All of these make sense to what Jesus is saying and apply to our series. 1. Christians should be especially fulfilling the creation mandate, building culture and being useful to the world. 2. Followers of Jesus should be preserving the cursed creation from constant decay and deterioration, fighting back evil in communities that hasten destruction of relationships, creation, etc. 3. Followers of Jesus should also be purifying our communities and cultures as we share the good news of Jesus and seek to bring justice to our communities. Because all of these applications work in the context I take this in the general sense that Christians are to be widely useful to the culture by preserving, cleansing, etc.

Light typically has a holiness meaning attached to it. Israel’s role in the world was to be a light to Gentiles—a community that represented and reflected God’s holiness. Light always dispels darkness and reveals that which was once in the dark. Biblical authors often use light and darkness in contrast between good and evil.

So this is a twofold declaration on the Christian life. Followers of Jesus are to be a useful, productive, positive presence in communities. They are also to dispel darkness, remove evil from wherever they find it, and represent the holiness of God to the culture around them.

How do they do this? By being people who demonstrate the characteristics of a life blessed by God and properly understanding who is blessed by God. This is just who they are; they can’t help themselves. It pours out of them as a result of their inner life being made new by Jesus.

ff to 4:48 for additional content

Additional Content

I’ve included a portion of a conversation I had with Jim Alexander. Jim works in sales with a large company and here’s what he had to say about how his faith influences his work.


Are you salt and light in all the various spheres of your life? Are you, just by nature of who you are, revealing the truth of God? Are you someone who has been so transformed by the work of God in your life that it’s not jut your actions that bring salt and light but you yourself bringing salt and light into your every environment?