Sermon on the Mount
“Salt and Light”
There are two things that we value that seem so insignificant at first, they don’t even come up on our radar, but they’re actually needed for our survival.
The first is salt. Too little of it and your food can be under seasoned, but too much can ruin the taste of your food.
The second is light. We all need light to navigate at night or in the dark, otherwise we’ll run into something and/or stub our toe and then wail in totally agony.
After giving us the beatitudes, or the blessed "be’s," where Jesus talks about what our attitude as Christians need to be, He then moves into what type on influence we need to have within the world.
Jesus is saying, “Those who are My disciples need affect the world in a positive way, not only by the way they live their lives, but also in the words they say.
Let’s take a moment and look at this section.
“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. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
Let’s take a moment and look at the first element.
“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.” (Matthew 5:13 NKJV)
Salt represents our influence in the world in the way we ought to be.
In ancient times salt was seen as a necessity of life thus great value was placed upon it. Because of its seasoning and preservative qualities salt was one of the most highly prized minerals.
Salt was so important that it was often times used for money, or monetary compensation. In fact, the English word for salary is derived from the Latin word “salarium,” and refers to the payments made to a Roman soldier with salt. The phrase, “Worth their salt,” was derived from this very practice.
Today we really don’t think a lot about salt, that is, unless we have high blood pressure or eating a steak. Most often we think of salt as that condiment that sits on the top of a dining table along with pepper in a bottle with holes in the top. In other words we don’t pay a lot of attention to it.
But back in the days of Jesus people thought a lot about salt placing a great value on this commodity because they were entirely dependent upon it.
So when Jesus likens his disciples to salt, what He meant is that we should be one of the most highly prized and valued people group in the world. So let’s take a moment and look at what salt does and then what we need to do to become this very thing.
Salt Creates Thirst
If you’ve ever eaten anything that’s really salty you know what I mean.
Whenever we come into a setting, whether it’s business or social, others should see evidence of the difference Jesus Christ makes in our lives. They should be able to look at us and say, “I want what they have.”
Like salt, Christians should promote thirst for Jesus. Our job as Christians is to make others thirsty for Jesus, because Jesus is the living water that leads to everlasting life. To the Samaritan woman at the well Jesus said concerning Himself,
“Whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14 NKJV)
As salt creates thirst we, as the salt of the earth, should be creating that thirst within others for Jesus
Salt is a Seasoning
Salt has always been used as one of the most important food seasoning there is. Even judges on cooking shows judge dishes as not having enough salt. Such a small substance makes all the difference in the world. Even though salt is so small and yet hardly noticeable it makes a difference when applied to the substance.
Job said, “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt?” (Job 6:6 NKJV)
As salt we should then be seasoning everything we do with Jesus and the Gospel message.
Salt is used in Sacrifices
Salt was used to flavor the offerings and sacrifices.
“And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.” (Leviticus 2:13 NKJV)
In order for our lives to be a living sacrifice for God they must be seasoned with righteousness of Christ, and we’re told that is what we’re to do.
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1 NKJV)
Notice in Leviticus it says “the salt of the covenant.” A covenant is an agreement. Salt was seen then as the binding substance in this as a covenant relationship we have with the Lord.
Salt also represented a relationship between friends, as an Arab saying goes: “There is salt between us.”
Salt is a Preservative
For thousands of years people used salt to preserve their meats. They didn’t have the refrigeration systems that we have today.
Salt was therefore important for survival, because it was the only way they had to preserve meat. The salt was rubbed into the meat before it was stored. Salt was to arrest or at least hinder the process of decay. In the same way we as Christians are to arrest and hinder the work of Satan and the moral decay in our world.
Jesus went on to say that if the salt were to lose it’s flavor or saltiness it wouldn’t be good for anything. Now, technically speaking salt cannot lose its saltiness; sodium chloride, or salt, is a stable compound. But back then in Israel salt was collected from around the Dead Sea where the crystals were often contaminated with other minerals, and while it may look like salt it wasn’t. It would then be thrown out because it was of no value.
In much the same way we can lose our saltiness, our influence in this world when we mix ourselves with the world. In fact, people can’t tell the difference a lot of the time.
George Barna said, “The average Christian in the average church is almost indistinguishable from the rest of society. The fundamental moral and ethical difference that Christ can make in how we live is missing. When our teens we claim to be saved, get pregnant and do drugs at the same rate as the general teenage population - when the marriages of Christians end in divorce at the same rate as the rest of society - when Christians cheat in business, or lie, steal, and cheat on their spouses at the same statistical level as those who say they are not Christians - something is horribly wrong.”
So when Jesus says that we’re the salt of the earth we are to have influence to season and preserve other peoples’ lives for God’s kingdom.
But salt is no good if it stays in the shaker. The church is not a warehouse of salt, it’s supposed to be the dispenser of salt, that is, shaking out you and me in order to make contact with others for Christ in order to make a difference.
The problem is that we’ve been so affected by the world that we’re no longer salty, then we might just become like Lot’s wife, that is a pillar of salt, instead of being a seasoning for Christ.
The second element Jesus told us to be like is…
You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
While Salt represents our influence, Light represents our testimony of Jesus to the world
Before we can look at this we must first understand the true source of the light we’re suppose to shine, and that is Jesus Christ. Jesus described Himself as the light of the world.
“Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” (John 8:12 NKJV)
The Apostle John said,
“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” (John 3:19 NKJV)
The Apostle John goes on to say that this light Jesus would be shining was the light of life.
“In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” (John 1:4 NKJV)
And so Jesus is the light, and as His followers Jesus said we are to reflect that light.
The same way that the moon reflects the light of the sun, Christians are to reflect the light of God’s son, Jesus.
Those who follow Jesus actually become reflectors of the light. Just as the sun in the source of light in our universe and the moon reflects the light of the sun, Jesus is the source of light in the world and we his followers are to reflect His light
And we do so by proclaiming the good news, the gospel. The Apostle Peter said,
“But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” (1 Peter 2:9 NKJV)
We are also called to walk in the light.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” (Ephesians 5:8 NKJV)
We were once darkness, but now we are light in the world. How are we to live then? We are to live as children of the light.
Functions of Light
Literally light exposes what’s in the darkness. Darkness is expelled as soon as the light comes on. So does my life help people see more clearly? We are to dispel darkness.
“Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising.” (Isaiah 60:1-3 NKJV)
Airplanes are able to see the runway at night because of the lights. When we drive our cars at night we turn on our lights so we can see the road and don’t drive off into the desert.
We are guides to people who are in darkness.
Just as God’s word is a light that guides our path, Psalm 119:105, we’re called to help guide others out of the darkness and into the light of Jesus
Our light shines not that people will be attracted to us, but rather they’d be attracted to Jesus Christ.
Now take a moment and consider what happens when our light fails to shine? It is removed.
“These things says He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands … Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place--unless you repent.” (Revelation 2:1,5)
And so the church that isn’t shining the light of Jesus, Jesus will Himself remove His presence, His light.
Jesus then likens us to a city set upon a hill, and a lamp upon a lampstand. It’s the duty of the church to stand out for the spreading of the gospel. Just as the church is a salt shaker, it’s also a lampstand.
We cannot benefit the world if we are like the world. We cannot benefit the world unless we show them that there is a better way. Our mission is to be Jesus’ light of the world and it’s our choice whether we shine or whether we hide the light.
Someone took one of those “glow in the dark” toys into the dark to see if it worked, but it didn’t glow. So they took it back into the light and read the inscription, “If you want me to shine in the night, keep me in the light.”
If we want our life to shine for Jesus in the darkness of this world, then we have keep ourselves in His light, the light of Jesus.
A woman came to her pastor to get his approval to leave her place of employment.
She said, “They are so bad, and not one of them is a Christian.”
But the pastor asked her a question. “If you had a candle where would you put it?”
Not really listening she went on to say that they lie and cheat and this was no place for a Christian to be employed.
But the pastor asked her the same question. “If you had a candle, where would you put it?”
Frustrated that the pastor wasn’t listening to her she said, “Pastor you don’t understand, they tell ungodly and profane jokes and take the Lord’s name in vain.”
The pastor then stopped her and said, “Please answer the question. If you had a candle where would you put it?”
Exasperated she said, “I guess I’d put it someplace where it’s dark.” And the light came on. She went back to work and within six months several of her co-workers came to know Jesus as their Savior and Lord.
People need us to be the salt and light witnesses for Christ. They need both, not just one or the other.
And so let’s go make a difference and be the salt and light of Jesus. Let’s go where Each One Reaches One.