“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. You are the light of the world. A city 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 men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
For two weeks we looked together at the beatitudes, the opening of the “sermon on the mount.” Today we look at the next 3 verses, where Jesus talks about salt and light.
First, I want you to notice how Jesus states this:
You ARE the salt of the earth.
You ARE the light of the world.
He doesn’t say to act like salt or shine like light….. He states that if you are my disciples….you ARE the salt and light of the world!
What does that mean?
- precious, important, valuable (from ancient civilizations…. until about 100 years ago!)
- cleans, purifies, used in rituals
- medicinal uses
- preserves (fish and meat) – keeps them from rotting!
- Enhances taste!
Salt, by itself, has little function or purpose….. but when it is used with other items like food or water, or as medicine – it can purify, and preserve, …..and add taste!
Jesus says that our lives….when lived in this world, in our communities….when connecting with other people…should add a zesty taste….and preserve all that is good. (in the same way that salt preserves meat and fish….and keeps it from rotting, our lives should keep society from rotting!)
But we must be careful. Too much salt can ruin a good dish, but not enough salt leaves it bland. Salt on an open wound can burn…salt, rather than inducing thirst, can sometimes exacerbate it. In our human bodies – too much salt….and we die; too little salt….and we die. We must always be gentle and humble….careful in our flavoring.
What does Jesus mean by salt losing its taste and function? In our metaphor and example here….one way would be simply to not share it, not use it, not make it available…..keep it in a jar, in a container, in the cupboard. Salt has NO value, NO purpose if it is not used.
We are to be adding flavor, preserving the good, and live as examples of the “tasty life” that God offers!
In our age of electric power, we often feel like we can control light. But in ancient times it was different. Half the time was light, half the time was dark. Candles and lampstands were important.
Here Jesus says “No one lights a lamp….and then covers it up with a bushel basket!” Ridiculous! The light is meant to help everyone in the household. So instead, it’s put on a stand and is able to light the whole house.
But light, like salt, doesn’t exist just for itself. It’s no good under a bushel. It fulfills its purpose when it is used, poured out. It can completely change our environment – throwing clarity and sight into places that were formerly just dark and black.
If we are Jesus’ disciples…..we are light! Shedding clarity on what it means to live in the kingdom of God; offering brightness and sight to those that had been lost and stuck in darkness.
In other words, our lives and witness – as salt and light – make a difference to the world around us. Or at least they should. Our faith is not just a personal matter. It is to have an effect on those around us.
So the question then is….if we are not functioning as salt or light, why not?
If our lives don’t have much effect on those around us….what is blocking that?
In the case of salt….as we mentioned above, it might mean that we are withholding salt, keeping it in our container (just having it for ourselves here at church), keeping it in the cupboard.
- Maybe we’re afraid
- Maybe we don’t believe that our lives are powerful enough to flavor our society
- Maybe we believe that we’re not good enough Christians to really be used by God in this way?
And we know already that we ARE light, according to Jesus. So if our light is NOT shining, it must be because we’ve covered it with a bushel. What kinds of things might be our BUSHELS?
- Inferiority complex (comparing ourselves to another church, or another era?)
- A church building? (keeping our good news inside our own walls?)
- Our own history (while our history is to be honored, does it sometimes keep us from becoming something new?)
Well here’s the hopeful and challenging word today.
You are the salt of the earth! あなたがたは、地の塩です
You are the light of the world! あなたがたは、世界の光です
That means that you are:
Valuable, important, precious
Your lives are “tasty” and “lit-up”
Lord, help us to be tasty and lit-up this week!
(the above is a summary of the message shared during worship on February 19, 2023.)