The Apostles were said to have turned the world upside down with their message. Jesus gives instructions that are a vital part of continuing to spread the message and fulfill the mission of Christ and His Apostles. What is it Jesus points to that will result in glory being gained for our Father in heaven? Is it a doctrine, a program, a pageant, a concert, or vibrant preaching? None of the above! (Although none of those things are wrong in and of themselves).
Matthew 5:13–16 — 13 “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. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 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.
What Jesus expresses is that we pay close attention to the way we live our lives before men, and that our very lifestyle should impact and affect the people around us. Does yours? Does your life flavor the world around you? Do your attitudes and lifestyle stand out in a crowd of darkened hearts and lives like a bright lamppost in a dark alleyway? It should! It is your calling, and it should be your ambition (Peter said so too – 1 Peter 2:11-12; 3:15). This is our purpose, our calling, our duty and privilege as Christians—to live lives that reflect our Lord’s goodness to society, and that make a positive, lasting impression on the people around us. Jesus expresses this privilege and calling using two word pictures: being “the salt of the earth,” and being the “light of the world.”
What does it mean to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world? First, to be the salt of the earth means you must strive to be a savory preservative in society. Salt is always savory and flavorful. But in Jesus’ day the most common use for salt was as a preservative. It was rubbed on meat to keep it from spoiling. In more modern times, perhaps you can recall pork being kept in barrels with salt brine. Similar to the salt that preserved and flavored meat, Christians are to be a “savory preservative” in society. We should “rub off” on our culture as we give voice to our Christian worldview, express how truth impacts practical issues, and live with integrity and morals.
Second, being the light of the world means you must strive to be a light in the darkness of society. What does it mean to be a light? Most of us are used to living near the city lights. That was not the world people were accustomed to in the first century. Their world was dark. There were no city lights reflecting off the clouds. It was dark. This world is in a similar moral darkness. They can barely see their hand in front of face in a spiritual sense. Christians ought to be the light that shines on that moral darkness, and exposes their spiritual blindness. But shining our light is not primarily the impact of our moral opinions or political vote. Don’t miss what Jesus says our LIGHT really is. It is our good works! It is living a life of love, goodness, kindness, generosity, mercy, forgiveness, joy, longsuffering, and contentment. It is our good works that we are to shine before men, not our “good opinions” alone, or our political platform.
Perhaps we have gone astray as we have tried to live our Christian lives in America. Sadly, many unbelieving people see evangelicalism as an enemy, as the other side in a political debate, rather than a gracious, unstoppable mob of generous, kindhearted people who incessantly pursue mercy, service and love.
Our fruit of our Christian worldview should not be a CAUSE we fight for, or a RIGHT we demand. Rather, it should be a LIFESTYLE we live by the grace of God. It is this Spirit-empowered lifestyle that should challenge unbelievers to see the worth of Christ, and the blessing of life lived under His Lordship. This is the thrust of what Jesus is saying. “You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”