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.
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.
BLOOM WHERE WE’RE PLANTED
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.
A woman was salt and light to a friend who was going through difficult times. This woman listened when her friend needed to talk. She called occasionally to inquire how things were going. She offered words of encouragement when needed, gave advice in rare circumstances, and prayed often. Her friend’s difficult times eventually ended, but her life was changed. The woman’s salt and light had touched her with the love and grace of God.
A young woman was trying to make a difference, but the forcefulness of her personality alienated people and defeated her purpose. A good friend took her aside and helped her to realize what she was doing. With a little coaching, she was able to use her drive in a more positive manner. The young woman’s life changed dramatically and she was able to achieve many of her goals.
Recently, Habitat for Humanity held a ceremony where they give the keys of the newly built house to the family. Seeing the smiles on the couple’s faces, and the faces of their children, everyone knew that the family had been touched with the salt and light of many volunteers.
It is important to note that, though, being salt and light does not involve hard work at trying to be something that we are not, salt and light always take place in the context of relationships. Church buildings are not salt and light, but rather the people who worship in them. Programs and ministries are not salt and light, but only the people who volunteer to use their talents and abilities.