Today we will be in the sermon on the mount, which is found in Matthew chapters 5-7. We’re looking at a short passage that talks about the influence we as Christians have in the world. Let’s read Matthew 5:13-16.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Alright. Today we are asking the question what does it mean to be the salt and light of the earth? I got some of the boys this week at Preteen Camp to give their answers. To warn you, I put them on the spot. This was not the theme of the week, so most of them were just like, “I don’t know.” But I still think it’d be fun to hear their answers. So turn your attention to the screens.
So, how do we usher in the Kingdom of God on earth? That’s what the sermon on the mount is all about. We are ushering in the kingdom of God on earth. We have our King, he is reigning over us, and we treat him as King. We obey him. So, from these four verses, Jesus shows us how we usher in his Kingdom on the earth. 3 ways. First:
1. We are salt; we delay decay.
Why does Jesus call us salt? Is it because we taste good, but we’re not healthy? Nowadays, when we think of salt we think of McDonald’s French fries, or basically anything and everything that we eat. I love salt; most of us love salt. But in the first century, enhancing taste was only one common use for salt. Salt was a very valuable because it had so many different uses. It was used as a preservative, a fertilizer, and of course, to season food! That’s why there are probably multiple meanings here when Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth. We preserve the earth; we fertilize in the sense that we provide nourishment for human growth, and we season food; maybe we add flavor to life!
All of that may be true, but I think the main thing Jesus is getting across is salt as a preservative. We, like salt, delay decay. We slow corruption. In the midst of a world that is corrupt, we slow that corruption. We influence the people around us for good. At least that’s the idea. And according to the Bible, following biblical principles for life, and leadership, and even national policies and laws (to an extent) will add to human flourishing. Flourishing not just for Christians but for everyone. So we preserve, delay decay, we influence the world for good. At least that’s the idea.
But here’s the thing: we won’t succeed in delaying decay and influencing the people around us for good if we are unsalty salt! Verse 13, again, “but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” There’s no purpose for salt that isn’t salty. If it has lost what makes it useful, it literally loses all purpose. I don’t know if there could be anything more disappointing, than trying and salt your green beans and it not work…that’d be terrible, right?! Who wants green beans without salt?! I mean, bad salt can’t even be thrown in the grass, because it could kill the grass! That’s why it says here that it has to be thrown on a pathway, where it will be trampled under people’s feet. Unsalty salt is useless and even dangerous!
Jesus says: You and I are the salt of the earth. And salt is supposed to be salty. This is who you are. We represent God on earth. One of the primary ways God influences the world is through his children! You and me! We are to be influencers on earth. We are ushering in the Kingdom of God, and we do that by living like Christ. Salt is supposed to be salty. Christians are supposed to be Christ-like.
We can’t slow corruption if we’re like everyone else. In other words, we’re supposed to be a little weird. We’re supposed to not really fit in with the world. The question we have to ask is, “Who is influencing who?” Are you an influence in the world for good? Or have you let the world so influence you that you are no longer salty?
Influencing the world doesn’t take some massive platform or audience. In fact, I love that Jesus chose salt as the metaphor here. Salt was valuable, yes, but it also was so common. We don’t have to influence the world or slow corruption in some massive way, influencing thousands or millions of people. He didn’t say, “You are the uranium of the earth; you just blow up!” No, he said you are the salt of the earth.
Being salty is as simple as aiming to live like Christ. We want to be salt that is salty. We want to be Christians who are Christ-like. Number 2: how do we usher in the Kingdom of God on earth? Not only are we salt, but Number 2:
2. We are light; We spread truth.
Verses 14-15: “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.” So, not only are we salt, but we are also light! Now, there are 3 characteristics of this light that I want us to focus on:
- It’s the Only Light
In both of these statements– you are the salt of the earth, and you are the light of the world– the language here is emphatic. In other words, it can be translated “You are the only salt of the earth. You are the only light of the world!” In other words, in the midst of complete darkness, we are the ones who pierce through it. We reveal truth. We have eyes opened by God’s grace, and God uses us to open others’ eyes.
On Sunday mornings, I wake up very early. Usually 4 or 5am, because I like getting here early. But when I first wake up, I try to be considerate for Lauryn and not turn on the lights. So what do I do? I use the flashlight on my phone, usually. But guess what? Using my phone light is sometimes worse than just turning on the lights. Why? Because this light is so bright. Think about that early in the morning: everything is pitch-black, and I turn on this bright flashlight. It is blinding. That’s how we as Christians pierce through the darkness. It’s not that things are already lit up, and so we’re just trying to make it a bit brighter. No! We’re the ONLY LIGHT in the midst of pitch-black darkness. So that’s the first characteristic of this light: it’s the only light. 2nd:
- The Light is Plural (that sounds contradictory, but it’s not, I’ll explain)
Something else that’s interesting about these statements– you are the salt of the earth, and you are the light of the world– the “you” there is plural. Meaning that it is God’s church who is the light of the world. It’s all of God’s people. In other words, ultimately it doesn’t come down to you as an individual to influence the entire world. Sometimes we get so captivated by this calling to “change the world!” that we can miss out on the countless small ways that we can have influence for Christ. It’s not our job, as individuals, to change the world. In fact, really, that’s God’s job! Our job is to be faithful. We’re to be salt and light. We do that simply be being who we are as children of God wherever God has placed us, whether that’s with some huge platform and audience, or simply with your family, friends and neighbors.
When you think, “light of the world”, don’t immediately go in your mind to starting some organization, or a blog, or a ministry. Those things are great. But start simply with where you are. Be kind to your co-worker that doesn’t know Christ. Be an excellent employee. Be a boss that truly cares for your employees. Pray with a brother or sister here before you leave. Those are just a few random examples of how we can be faithful where God has placed us. Because God desires faithfulness, and God will use our collective faithfulness to do what He wants in the world. We, together, can be the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. The 3rd characteristic of this light. Not only is it the only light, we as believers. And we, together as believers, are that light. But 3rd:
- The Light is Visible
Here’s a question that we have to ask: Why is it that we hide our faith, sometimes? I’m sure not everyone in here struggles with this, but I’m guessing many of us do. Sometimes we’re embarrassed to claim Christ. We want to quote-unquote “normal,” or at least what the world considers “normal.” It makes friendships in the world easier, especially at work, at school, with family. I mean, we’re all fine with claiming to be a Christian and even going to church, but to actually light the world, talking and sharing openly what God is doing in our lives— that’s a scary thought.
And It’s ok if that’s a scary thought for you, but that cannot keep us from obeying Christ. The more we read the Word and spend time with Christ, the less afraid we will be. That is just a fact. We’re all in a growing process, but we cannot let fear be an excuse in not striving to be the light of the world. Being a real Christian, but hiding it, makes as much sense as lighting a lamp and then putting it under a basket. What do we do with a light, so that it serves its purpose? We put it up high! Anyone here put lamps under the kitchen table? No! That’s the point Jesus is making.
We don’t hide the light so that we look like the rest of the house, which is in darkness. We can’t. We hold up the light so that others can see it! We are distinct! We are weird! We are not normal, and it’s ok! It’s more than ok, it’s great! Light is completely distinct from darkness. We will stick out. Light overtakes the darkness; in fact, that’s the whole point! Darkness can’t overtake the light, can it? That’s why we have flashlights! Is there such a thing as a flashdark? You can it take outside in broad daylight and shine darkness everywhere? Overtake the light? No. Light always overtakes the darkness, which is why this light must be put on a stand for everyone to see. It must be visible! If we’re not shining, they’re not seeing. If we don’t shine Christ, unashamedly, the world won’t see Christ.
Being light means in the world but not of it. It means that we influence the world, but we don’t reflect it. Our potential for making a difference in the world coincides with our willingness to be different from the world. Being salt and light means distinct, set apart, salty, and bright.
So, how, week in and week out, how can we be light? By confidently following Christ, submitting to His authority and rule. And by being open about who we are in Christ. By doing that, we are ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth.
This morning I want us to ask ourselves, in what ways have we placed our light under a basket? When was the last time you shared what you’re learning in God’s Word with someone who may not know Jesus? Or how God is changing you? “I’m working on patience, and God is helping me. There’s this great verse in Proverbs 14:29.” When was the last time you shared your unpopular political opinion based on God’s Word, (insofar as it’s really based on God’s Word).
There are some things we keep private. There are some things, generally speaking, it makes sense to keep private. Our faith is simply not one of those things. The third way we usher in the Kingdom of God on earth, and this one summarizes the first two, really:
3. We are His; We reflect His glory.
Verse 16 again: “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see our good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Did you catch that? Let your light shine! Let your new character and new heart and new mind and new actions shine! Don’t hide it; be a beacon for truth, so that what happens? So that people will think you’re just awesome!? No. So that people will give glory to God who is in heaven. Ultimately, who we are and what we do on earth is all about God’s glory.
The best illustration I’ve heard for this, and just another easy one to understand, like salt and light, is that of the sun and the moon. Think about this: one day there will be no more darkness, no more sin, no more secrets, no more pain. In a way it’s like daytime, when the sun shines its light everywhere. But that day is not here yet. That day we look forward to, when Jesus establishes a new heavens and a new earth, when his reign is absolute even differently than it is absolute now. That day isn’t here yet.
Instead, it is night-time. There is darkness everywhere. But there is something that gives some light, and it’s the moon. But the moon, of course, is different from the sun. It does not shine its own light, right? Instead, it reflects the light of the sun from the other side of the world.
Similarly, you and I have no light of our own to give. BUT, we can reflect the light of Christ. Do you realize there are certain people who will never see any light of Christ in their whole lifetime except for you? For some, you will be the only light they could ever see. And if we don’t shine, they don’t see the light. If we’re not shining, they’re not seeing. If we’re not sharing, they’re not hearing.
Do not hide the light. Don’t be scared of shining the light. Don’t be afraid of being salty salt. By God’s grace, don’t be insecure! Be open about the things you don’t know. And be courageous about the things you do know. We don’t have to make up truth. But we must be open to sharing the truth that God has given us.