Summary: Jesus uses two metaphors to describe our influence in the world today. As salt, we are to make people thirsty for Jesus. As light, we have the privilege of pointing people to the true light of the world. Our challenge is to make sure we are “out of the
What We’re Called to Be
Rev. Brian Bill
A Peanuts cartoon showed Peppermint Patty talking to Charlie Brown in which she said, “Guess what, Chuck? The first day of school, and I got sent to the principal’s office. It was your fault, Chuck.” Charlie Brown responds, “My fault? How could it be my fault?
Why do you say everything is my fault?” To which she declares, “You’re my friend, aren’t you, Chuck? You should have been a better influence on me.”
While Peppermint Patty was trying to pass the buck, she was also speaking some truth.
We should be a good influence on those around us.
People are watching us. I heard of a minister who was making a wooden trellis to support a climbing vine. As he was pounding away, he noticed that a little boy was watching him. The youngster didn’t say a word, so the preacher kept on working, thinking the lad would leave. But he didn’t. Pleased at the thought that his work was being admired, the pastor finally said, “Are you trying to pick up some pointers on gardening?” “No,” he replied. “I’m just waiting to hear what a preacher says when he hits his thumb with a hammer.”
We are always influencing someone, either positively or negatively. People are watching you! What do they see? What they observe has an influence on them. And it should. Jesus has energized us to be persuaders for Him.
Before we jump into our text for this morning, let me make a few observations.
1. Context. Chapters 5-7 of Matthew contain what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. The theme of this greatest sermon ever preached is how kingdom people should live. As we established last week, since Jesus is Lord, we need to obey Him in all things. He is king and we are His subjects. The first 12 verses of Matthew 5 are known as the Beatitudes and have to do with our relationship with God. Verses 13-16 deal with our relationship with others. Our dealings with lost people come out of our surrendered lives. As 1 Peter 3:15 says, when we strive to live under the control of Christ, people will notice.
If the Beatitudes describe the essential character of the Christ follower, the metaphors of salt and light indicate our outward influence. Jesus links our inner attitude with outward action.
2. Common Metaphors. When Jesus spoke of salt and light, He was using two images that were, and still are, very common. In our contemporary society, we may miss the real value of salt. For many of us, it’s just this blue container tucked away in our cupboards. Ancient societies understood the value of salt far better than we do. The Romans believed, for instance, that there was nothing as valuable as salt, except for the sun. Many of their soldiers received their pay in salt. That’s where the phrase “not worth his salt” comes from. In that culture, light was very important because they didn’t have electricity or flashlights.
3. Our Identity. I want you to notice that Jesus doesn’t say that you are like salt, or even that you will be light some time in the future. He says, “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world.” This is what we’re called to be. It’s who we are and why we live in this world. Once we are converted we automatically are the salt of the earth. The word “you” here is emphatic and in the plural. It literally means, “You, my followers, and none others, are the salt and the light.”
4. Two roles. While it’s our nature and our calling to be influencers, Jesus implies that some believers have slipped spiritually. Just as it’s absurd to think of salt that is not salty or to light a lamp and then put a bushel over it, so too, it’s incomprehensible to Jesus that a believer would disengage from lost people and lose his or her ability to make an impact.
We have at least two roles, one negative, and the other positive. If salt exercises the negative function of delaying decay and warns disciples of the danger of compromise and conformity, then light speaks positively of illuminating a sin-darkened world.
The Salt of the Earth
Let’s look first at Matthew 5:13: “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.”
If you’ve spent more than 20 minutes in church you’ve probably heard that you are the salt of the earth. And most of what you’ve heard has just made you feel guilty about not doing more witnessing. This “salt” Scripture is so familiar, so much a part of our evangelical vernacular, that it’s lost much of its power.