Summary: Jesus calls us to be salt and light. A watching world needs to "taste the Lord and see that he is good." People need our preserving influence, and they need to see the light of Christ shine through us. You may be the only Bible some will ever read.
Making a Lasting Impact
Do you ever yearn to make a difference in the world? To do something significant with your life? Do you ever wonder, “Why am I still on this earth?” I tell you, there is no greater satisfaction than to know you have been used by God himself to touch someone’s life perhaps for eternity! And being used by God is certainly not limited to pastors. Anyone can be used by God. Today Jesus calls us to consider—along with his original followers—who we really are in Christ.
Last week, in the Beatitudes, Jesus talked a lot about what we do. We extend mercy, we receive comfort, we make peace. We receive lots of blessings as a result. Today it’s not so much what we do, but who we are to a watching world.
Who are you in Christ? And what makes you different from the rest of the world? Jesus uses two very emphatic “you” statements to tell you who you are. You are salt and you are light. An ancient Roman official once commented, “There is nothing more useful than salt and sunshine.”
Let’s first consider salt. It has lots of redeeming qualities, such as making things more flavorful. Through our lives, we should invite others to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8). Or consider Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Salty Christians leave people wanting more of the gospel, more of God’s love.
Salt certainly adds flavor. But the ancient world prized it most for its use as a preservative; after all, this is before refrigeration. When we live as Christians, we help preserve the world; we make it a better place. Did you know it was Christians who formed the first literary programs on the streets of England? They called these reading programs for the poor “Sunday School” and used the Bible as the text. Christians built the first public hospitals. Christians built the first colleges and the first children’s homes. Until the 1930s, churches alone cared for the downtrodden of society. Still today Christians lead the way in charitable giving. All these things help preserve the world—they help hold back the evil so that God can continue to save, as he wills no one to perish (2 Peter 3:9).
But there’s another way we act as a preservative, a more personal, individual way. When we share our faith with others, whether in word or deed, we partner with God to save some from the path of hell. We help preserve their souls, because every person matters! Everyone is precious to God.
Jesus asks the question, “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 underfoot” (v. 13). It’s a puzzling question, because pure salt—sodium chloride—can never lose its saltiness. It will always be salty. Some think Jesus was referring to the polluted salt that came from the Dead Sea. It was mixed with minerals and lost its effectiveness over time. People would just throw it on paths to block the weeds.
But maybe Jesus’ question is rhetorical, since Jesus knows true salt never loses its saltiness. Maybe he’s saying true believers—those who follow him—they will always be salty. They can’t help it. Which makes you wonder why some Christians don’t act too Christian. A bumper sticker read, “Jesus, save me from your followers!” We all can appreciate some truth in that at times, as we see people who don’t seem too salty, too flavorful to others, and maybe sometimes find ourselves behaving like that. Yet, as we cooperate with God’s spirit at work in us, we become saltier.
So, Jesus reminds us to live salty lives, helping preserve our world and people who need the Lord. And then he reminds us to let our light shine. [Did anybody else here grow up with that song? ... “This little light of mine...Hide it under a bushel, no!”]
Like salt, light has a number of functions. Light guides and light illuminates. We need to guide people to the “light of the world.” Here Jesus calls us that, but in another passage (John 8:12), he calls himself that. Jesus is like the sun and we’re like the moon. The sun is a source of light, but the moon has no light source of its own; it merely reflects the sun’s light. We are like the moon, reflecting the Son of God at work in our lives.
Jesus shares a couple of illustrations to stress how our light should shine. He talks about a town on a hill that can’t be hidden because of all its lights. Back then you could see a hilltop city miles away from the torch lights. Jesus might have been referring to the most famous hilltop city, Jerusalem, or perhaps one of several cities that could be seen from Capernaum, where he was preaching.