Summary: How is our church? then how to be salt and light, with a couple of examples that will be hard to live up to.

Sermon - Salt and Light

Preached 10:00 9 February 2020 @ Christ Church, Billericay

Purpose: To be Salt and Light

Readings: Isaiah 58v1-9a; Matthew 5v13-20

Isaiah’s Time

It seems that the world in Isaiah’s time was not so different in some ways than the worlds is now. They look like they followed God, they did all the right things on the surface, but underneath they we just being selfish. Then they wondered why their prayers were not answered.

“For day after day they seek me out” (well, perhaps that’s a bit different) “they seem eager to know my ways as if they were a nation that does what is right and has not forsaken the commands of its God.”

‘Why have we fasted, and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’

‘We come to church week by week, you have not seen us? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’

“Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers.

Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists.”

“Yet every Sunday you go home and treat the rest of the day like any other. You expect people to serve you, to entertain you and to sell you things.” … and no doubt, sometimes there is quarrelling and strife, even here amongst Billericians.

Religion must make a difference

Isaiah is saying that their religion must make a difference to their lives. The people show some evidence of wanting to do God’s will, they are even prepared to put up with the minor inconvenience of fasting. But it doesn’t make a real difference to how they live their lives, to how they behave on a day to day basis.

My commentary call this ‘empty externalism’ - religion on the outside which has no meaning to the person on the inside.

God’s requirement

God’s requirement is in verses 6 and 7.

Isaiah 58:6 “Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter — when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

It is a common theme running through the Old Testament. In our communion prayer we sometimes have these words from Micah 6:8:

“And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”


Jesus has a different way of putting it to the crowds he is speaking to in the sermon on the mount. “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”.

Salt and Light

Pliny said “Nothing is more useful than salt and sunshine”. So Jesus has used the two most important elements of life to teach the people. I’m going to look at each of these in more detail so that we can understand a little better how these saying might have been received.


You won’t be surprised to learn that salt in the first century did not come out of a plastic tub. Instead it was collected from around the Dead Sea. That means it is impure, it is a mixture of all sorts of things. When it gets damp, the real salt – the sodium chloride – is dissolved little by little. The salt still looks the same but is beginning to lose its saltiness. In recent years in Israel, this non-salty salt was used on the flat roofs and combined with the soil on the roof it produces a hard and waterproof covering for the house. Perhaps we should get some! The flat roofs are also used, children were allowed to play on them, Peter used to pray on the roof (Acts 10:9), so that’s where the ‘trampled by men’ phrase come from.

Worth his salt

Salt was very important, as we have already heard from Pliny. It is where we get the phrase “He is worth his salt” - which means he is worth his pay. Sal, the Latin for salt is also the root of our word salary, which was an allowance paid to Roman soldiers so that they could buy salt.

Salt was important for two reasons. It was used for flavouring food, as it still is today, but more importantly it was used as a preservative before the invention of refrigeration.


It is this preservative property of salt that Jesus is getting at. “The salt of the earth” means that we are the preservative of the world. We are a sort of moral disinfectant, our purpose is to keep the world from becoming rotten. Do you think we are doing a good job?

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