Growing up I quickly realized how much I enjoy food. Not just any kind of food, but some unique things that we would eat in our home. My afters school snack was either some regular ripple chips with red wine vinegar sprinkled (poured) over top or provolone cheese dipped in fresh home made tomato sauced (uncooked) with some olive oil added. Sounds crazy, but it was so good. Something my twin brother and I would fight over were bonconini. We both loved that soft cheese. The best way to eat it was to put a few in a dish, sprinkle salt over top and then peel the cheese apart.
I’m a big fan of how salt makes things taste like. I know that it’s not ‘that’ good for you if you have some heart issues, but a little salt on things like fresh cut fries or eggs or, my favourite, bonconcini, just tastes great. I guess I’m a big fan of flavourful food…any kind. I mean, what would our world be like without flavour? I’ll tell you what – bland.
Amongst the many things Jesus is calling his followers to be, one thing is for sure, he wants us to add flavour to our world. Jesus not only spices up our lives, but he calls us to do the same for others.
In Matthew 5, as Jesus continues his hill side sermon introduction, he moves from character traits (Beatitudes) to metaphors. He first tells his disciples that they should be humble, meek, pure of heart, producers of peace, etc. But Jesus doesn’t stop there, he continues to show us what kind of people he is calling us to be, this time by telling us to be salt and light.
You are the Salt of the earth.
You are the Light of the world.
Think about the decay and corruption we see; the dark places in our communities, cities, governments; to those places, Jesus says, be Salt & Light!
Why Salt? Why Light?
“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 on.”
Jesus starts with confidence and grace. He doesn’t ask or invite his disciples to be salt, he tells them, ‘this is what/who you are’. Even if they don’t know it or think it or feel it yet.
Salt was very valuable in ancient times. (it still is) The Romans paid their soldiers with salt, the Greeks called it divine, at times is was referred to as ‘white gold’. Its value was in its power to preserve. It stops meat and other foods from decaying. It also adds flavour to the food we eat.
Jesus uses this metaphor to teach his disciples the role they have as followers of him in the world – to add flavour, and especially, to be a defence towards things that are decaying and corroding.
Paul adds another dimension to the salt metaphor. In Colossians 4:5-6 he says, “…make the most of every opportunity, let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt.” This may be just me reading into the metaphor, however, I can’t help but think about how bad something tastes when there’s too much salt. So as followers of Jesus, let’s discern how much salt to add. If we don’t use any, then life is bland, but if we add too much, people won’t be able to taste how good the food God is serving.
“You are a the light of the world. A city built 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
Jerusalem was the city that was supposed to shine brightly. Jesus is trying to let us know that his light isn’t stuck to a location, it’s stuck to us. We are mobile flashlights, taking his light everywhere we go. Where his church goes, the light goes.
What does light do? It helps us see where we’ve gone wrong…and it helps us see where to go next. Tim Keller puts it this way, “…because there are dark places in the world, Jesus wants us to be light in those dark places…and because our culture is in decay, we can be a preservative, restoring a broken world. Being salt and light shows the world how to be the right kind of human.”
The reason we call the first 16 verses of Matthew 5 Jesus’ introduction to his hill side sermon is because what follows is example after example of how and where we can live out our saltiness and light. (Matthew 5-7)
Being Light and Salt in a dark and bland world will stir up curiosity. Living this kind of life (Beatitudes and all) is bound to get people asking questions. And isn’t that precisely the point? Jesus wants us to live in such a way that causes people to ask about the hope that we have in him. (read this verse from 1 Peter)
The early church didn’t win people to Jesus by passing out tracks (one more reason why I’ve never been into things like that), they led people to Jesus by how they lived, how they loved, how they cared, for themselves and those who weren’t even part of their community. That kind of radical love and life gave the Roman Empire fits. Don’t you wanna live that way? Don’t you want to live and act in such a way that has people so puzzled about your goodness and grace they can’t help but ask why you live the way you do?
I think Eugene Peterson’s rendition of Matthew 5:13-16 says it best. Read it as a challenge and as a prayer to do the same…
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
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small(er) group questions:
These words from Jesus follow the Beatitudes. How do you feel the Beatitudes connect with or are related to Salt & Light?
Can you think of things in our world that represent decay or darkness?
Salt’s two main purposes are to ‘preserve’ and the add ‘flavour’. How does a follower of Jesus go about doing that?
How do Paul’s words in Colossians 4:5 help us better understand Jesus’ commission to be salt?
“…make the most of every opportunity, let your conversation always be full of grace, seasoned with salt.”
– what opportunities do you think Paul is talking about? have you had any? what would they look like? How would you describe ‘seasoning’ in a personal context?
(1 Peter 3:15 is a good cross reference for this)
Jesus’ commission for us to be light is profound in that He is already the light of the world. How do you feel about him asking us to be?
– Does this mean we have to be perfect?
– How can we be his light, even in our brokenness?
Read Matthew 5:13-16 again, in the message (above). What are some of your final thoughts or reflections about this text?
Pray in light of tonight’s theme. For opportunity for God to use you in the way Jesus was talking about.