SGBC Modesto

Salt and Light

March 13, 2024 by

William Heinrich

Matthew 5:13-16 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.  (14)  “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.  (15)  Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.  (16)  Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. 

Far too often this verse is used incorrectly. To understand the correct view, one must restrict himself to the context (what was said before this). It is incorrect to quote these verses without the context. When this happens, people have cited 13-16 as a mandate for the church to engage in political activism or lobbying or organized protests. One such a voice was heard saying for example, “We need to make our voices heard in the voting booth, or we are not being salt or light the way Jesus commanded.”

The context will reveal that Jesus is calling for Christians to live a holy life. Matthew 5:13-16 is a part of the Sermon on the Mount and flows immediately after Jesus had pronounced a formal blessing on those who possess the key traits of godliness.

The godly Christian is to affect his world by being in stark contrast to it. The world glorifies power and dominion, force and physical strength, status and position. In stark contrast, Jesus calls for humility, meekness, mercy, mourning, purity of heart and even persecution for the sake of rightness. Jesus blesses the peacemakers not protesters, the poor in spirit not the proud, people willing to be persecuted not those who cry out for these rights and make demands.

The statement, “You are the salt of the earth and you are the light of the world” are statements of fact (indicative) not a command (imperative). He doesn’t command us to be salt and light; He says we are salt and light and then forbids “us” to hide under a bushel.

Jesus is saying that a sin-darkened society is blessed and influenced for good by the presence of Christians with their lights on and their block salty. Jesus adds the most important part when He says, “So that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

So these verses are about a holy acceptable walk in a darkened world. It’s about men seeing our light because it’s bright in stark contrast to the darkness. It’s about men tasting our salt block and being preserved and purified in a flavorless world with no appetite for that giving eternal satisfaction. It is about God getting glory from each Christian and through each Christian extending to those affected by the light and salt of others. Our call is to climb life’s hill so we will be seen and tasted.