Summary: Jesus graciously proclaims that his followers are salt and light. They live out a new righteousness established by the cross and empowered by the Spirit.

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Matthew 5:13-20 “A Lesson in Righteousness”


There’s an old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We all know that this is not true. Words have a powerful effect in our lives. Each of us seems to have something like a tape recorder in our brains that plays back all the cruddy stuff people have said about us. They told us we were stupid, a geek, fat, ugly, a scarecrow, a lightweight, a failure, along with scores of other derogatory descriptions. Sometimes they’ve said it so many times to us that we begin to believe it ourselves. It’s been estimated that it takes ten positive comments to counteract one negative comment for a child. The ratio actually goes up in the teen years to forty positive comments to counteract one negative comment and then falls back to 10:1 for adults.

Conversely, we also know the power of positive comments. Some of us have been blessed with a person who saw something in us—something good—and told us. They helped us catch a glimpse of what we were capable of, and our lives have been forever changed and blessed.

In this week’s lesson we read about Jesus proclaiming to his followers that they were salt and light—positive images of change. When we read these words, we also realize that they are about us. Jesus is telling us that we are salt and light.


At first glance “salt” and “light” may not seem to be much of a compliment. Salt is a necessity of life, however. Wars have been fought over salt, and some cultures have used it as currency. Light, too, is a necessity of life. Plants do not grow without light, and we do not function well in darkness.

The key to Jesus’ words is that he tells us that we ARE salt and light. Salt and light are not some statuses to be attained. They do not take hard work to achieve. They are not the keys to our salvation. Salt and light are simply what we are.

Being born from above and empowered by the Holy Spirit makes us salt and light. We are like the song bird who welcomes the morning sun. He is only doing what he was created to do. We are like a fruit tree that produces delicious fruit from water, soil and sunshine because that is what it was created to do.

We are salt and light. What a compliment this is. What great praise from our creator this is.


It is a temptation for us to try to be salt and light. Many times we end up looking like American Idol contestants. Someone has told them that they could sing (or didn’t have the heart to tell them that they couldn’t). They then audition for American Idol and make a fool of themselves in front of not only the three judges but also the viewing public.

Being salt and light is to understand that the Holy Spirit has indwelt us and is working through us.

Being salt and light is to understand and recognize our gifts and talents. We are salt and light as we live out our lives of faith in our personal context.

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