Summary: As salt of the earth and light of the world, we are called to influence people from evil and illuminate them for good.
One of the movies I would like you to watch is Evan Almighty. In the movie news anchor Evan Baxter, played by Steve Carell, ran for Congress with the campaign slogan, “Change the world.” He won. But the way he fulfilled his campaign promise is not the way he imagined it would be. But God, played by my favorite actor Morgan Freeman, had an entirely different idea. I will not reveal the plot of Evan Almighty so I won’t spoil the fun. But I agree with its premise. We are called to change the world. We are called to stand out and make a difference. Open your Bibles in Matthew 5:13-16. says, “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.” This morning, let us talk about “How to Stand Out.” Let us pray…
We are at the end of “Pursuing ‘Happyness,’” a series on the Beatitudes in Matthew 5:1-12. Last time I spoke, we saw that even if we are peacemakers, still people will persecute us. How do we respond? We are to respond by living our lives as the salt and light. Note that Jesus did not say, “You must become salt or light.” He said, “You are the salt… you are the light…” That’s who we are already. Also, the pronoun “You” is plural. That means all of us are salt and light. It is also emphatic in Greek. That means that “You” is emphasized in the way the sentence is constructed in Greek. That means “You, only you, and none others,” are the salt and light. What we need to do now is to remain salty and bright. So, what does it mean that we are the salt and the light? How do we keep our saltiness and how do we let our lights shine?
When we read the word “salt,” we think of adding a dash to our food. But salt has other uses during those times. “Salt was used in the ancient world to flavor foods and even in small doses as fertilizer. Above all, salt was used as a preservative. Rubbed into meat, a little salt would slow decay.”So, what does it mean to be salt of the earth? We are to INFLUENCE people FROM evil. Someone wrote, “[We are] to be a moral disinfectant in a world where moral standards are low, constantly changing, or non-existent.” We are to set the standard. That’s why before Jesus said we are the salt of the earth He first described us as poor in spirit, repentant, meek, craving for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers and persecuted for righteousness. We are to speak out against sin through our words and works.
The problem is that we lose by default. We stay in the saltshaker, so to speak. People do not experience our influence. We stay in our comfort zone. Someone wrote, “Evil men triumph when good men do nothing.” We keep silent. Why? We are afraid we will be persecuted. As I have pointed out, before we are called the salt of the earth, Jesus warned that people will insult and accuse us falsely because of the Lord. But, instead of staying away, we must work to slow down or, if possible, stop the moral decay of the world.
What’s worse than being silent? Verse 13 continues, “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” Some questioned how salt can lose its saltiness when in fact salt or sodium chloride is stable and does not really break down. One commentator wrote, “But most salt in the ancient world derived from salt marshes or the like, rather than by evaporation of salt water, and therefore contained many impurities. The actual salt, being more soluble than the impurities, could be leached out, leaving a residue so dilute it was of little worth.” So, what remains after salt lost its saltiness is just white road dust. It is still called salt. It still looked like salt. But it no longer tasted like salt. It cannot be used anymore to flavor or preserve food. “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
What does it mean that lose our saltiness? When we compromise our witness, when we ruin our testimony, when we lose the right to speak against sin because we ourselves committed such sins, then we lost our saltiness. “If Christians become assimilated to non-Christians and contaminated by impurities of the world, they lose their influence. The influence of Christians in and on society depends on their being distinct, not identical.” We are not to imitate the ways of the world or isolate from it but we are to influence it.