Summary: What did Jesus mean when He said you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world?
Uncompromised and Uncovered
Read Main Text: Matthew 5:13-16 NIV
You are Salt
- most effective and most widely used of all food preservatives - Medieval and ancient societies used salt as a preservative for food because they didn’t have refrigeration to keep it from spoiling - one source said that it is included in Egyptian mummy preservation - it is an antiseptic - it is a flavor enhancer
What did Jesus mean when He said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13 NIV)?
John MacArthur writes: “Christians are a preserving influence in the world; they retard moral and spiritual spoilage” (MacArthur’s New Testament Commentary: Matthew).
With that in mind, just think about what would happen if every true Christian disappeared off the face of the planet.
What would happen to our American government?
John Adams said, “We have no government capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion. Our constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the governing of any other”(quote taken from: Right & Wrong: A Case for Moral Absolutes).
What would happen in the abortion debate?
What would happen in the gay marriage battle?
What are some areas we would see erode faster than they are now?
What would happen to the world as a whole?
Don’t Be Compromised
Jesus also said, “But if the salt loses its saltiness…”
While some would contend that salt can’t lose its saltiness, others offer these explanations:
“it is a well-known fact that the salt of this country, when in contact with the ground, or exposed to rain and sun, does become insipid and useless. From the manner in which it is gathered, much earth and other impurities are necessarily collected with it. Not a little of it is so impure that it cannot be used at all, and such salt soon effloresces and turns to dust—not to fruitful soil, however.” (Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament).
“the impure salt taken from the sea and its environs was susceptible to deterioration that left only useless crystals” (Life Application Bible Commentary).
“Sodium chloride could leech out of the generally impure salt from this area, leaving a tasteless substance” (source unknown).
“Much of the salt in Palestine, such as that found on the shores of the Dead Sea, is contaminated with gypsum and other minerals that make it taste flat and even repulsive” (MacArthur’s Commentary on the New Testament).
Either by exposure or mixture with other elements, salt can lose its effectiveness. Christians lose their effectiveness by becoming contaminated with the impurities of this world.
Richard Baxter wrote:
“Take heed to yourselves, lest your example contradict your doctrine, and lest you lay such stumbling-blocks before the blind, as may be the occasion of their ruin; lest you unsay with your lives, what you say with your tongues; and be the greatest hinderers of the success of your own labours.”
“One proud, surly, lordly word, one needless contention, one covetous action, may cut the throat of many a sermon, and blast the fruit of all that you have been doing” (The Reformed Pastor. First published in 1656. This reprint in 1994. p. 63).
So what happens to salt that becomes ineffective?
Jesus said, “It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
“When a batch of such contaminated salt would find its way into a household and be discovered, it was thrown out. People would be careful not to throw it on a garden or field, because it would kill whatever was planted. Instead it would be thrown onto a path or road, where it would gradually be ground into the dirt and disappear” (MacArthur’s Commentary on the New Testament).
“Even today in Israel, people scatter such salt on the flat roofs of their homes to harden the soil and prevent leaks. These roofs are still used for children to play and for group gatherings, so the salt is still literally trampled under foot.” (Life Application Bible Commentary: Matthew).
The truth is that salt that has been compromised cannot be used for its intended use. So it is thrown out. This picture becomes a stern warning to those who call themselves Christ’s followers. We dare not become ineffective because of impurities in our lives!
You are Light
Jesus used another analogy. He called us the light of the world.
“You are the light of the world.”
But wasn’t’ Jesus the light of the world? (see John 8:12; 9:5). Yes. But so are we, in that we reflect His light. In fact, compared to the darkness of society, we “shine like stars in the universe” (Phil. 2:15).
Don’t Be Covered Up
“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” (Matthew 5:14, NIV).