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. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5)
In Matthew 5, after teaching about the beatitudes, Jesus goes on to talk about salt and light. In the beatitudes, the focus is about recognizing the blessedness of the Christian attitude and the way of life. However, going on to salt and light, Jesus after describing it as part of the Christian experience, emphasizes the need to actively pursue a lifestyle that maintains that nature.
“Do not lose your saltiness!” is the recommendation that flows out of v13. Being salty is the value of salt. If the saltiness is lost, it becomes junk, worth only to be discarded. But can salt lose its saltiness? Sodium chloride, which is the chemical name for common salt is one of the most stable compounds known to man. In its pure form, it is almost impossible for the bond between sodium and chloride to be broken. However, when you consider salt in Palestine, which is what Jesus would have been using as a metaphor, rock salt that was in use was often found along with several impurities and under the effect of water and sunlight, could potentially end up spoilt, making it unusable.
The spiritual lesson is unmistakable. When a Christian fails to maintain his integrity and loses his focus on valuing his relationship with Christ above all things, he allows the peripheral impurities of life to come and take over his life. Much like pure salt that cannot be spoilt, the work of the Spirit in the life of a Christian is eternally secure and unspoiled. However when he allows the worldliness, the pleasures, the worries and sinfulness of life to become prominent in his life, it does mask the work of God, so much so, that the net effect is one of saltiness being lost, of one where the Christian loses his effectiveness in being the flavor and preservative of the local society he interacts with.
“Let your light shine before men!” is the second recommendation that comes forth from Jesus’ teaching. The intrinsic ability we possess to chase away darkness flows from our access to the light of the world, Christ, who lives in us and illuminates our lives and the world around us. While this is a natural process, we need to be cognizant of the fact that we need to let the world know of the light we possess. Speak of Jesus, demonstrate Christian love, be not ashamed of the One who has saved you and be active in spreading the gospel. Above all, focus on developing an intimate relationship with Christ where we are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit and submit to the urgings of the Spirit. The light of Christ then will shine through us and make an impact around us.
Yes, we are the salt and light. But we also need to participate in the process of making these qualities valuable for God’s purposes.
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