The Sermon on the Mount given by Jesus is the most famous sermon in the world. And rightfully so, for it is not only pristine, but powerful and practical. The Beatitudes found in the first 11 verses of Matthew 5 are the most widely known portion. In fact, the site where Jesus gave the sermon is called “The Mount of Beatitudes.”
However, tucked in right after the Beatitudes are three more imposing verses (Matthew 5:13-16) that should not be overlooked. They are usually referred to as the “Salt and Light” passage because Jesus uses these items illustratively in His teaching. I would encourage you to take time to read this passage, as I will only touch on a few of the phrases.
Jesus often employed simplistic illustrations as word pictures in order to convey profound truths. In order to understand what Jesus meant when He referred to His followers as salt and light it would be good to consider a few basic characteristics of these items. For example, salt adds flavour to and aids in the preservation of food. Salt was very important in Jesus’ time. In fact, our word salary comes from the word for salt; think of this the next time you hear that someone is “not worth their salt.”
Light can eliminate distortion, dismiss shadows and dispel fear and reveal safely and clearly where one should go, or not go. Light was also very important in biblical times and people were reliant upon lamps and candles.
Jesus told His disciples that they were the salt of the earth and the light of the world adding taste, preserving truth and showing, not shoving the way. Listing and contemplating these meaningful characteristics is valuable and helpful, but I believe that there is more here.
Jesus was in effect summarizing the Christian life. He was describing for His disciples both the internal reality and the external reflection of knowing Him. Salt speaks of inward character and what we have become through the inward spiritual affluence of believing in Jesus; the covert inward reality of our faith.
Light speaks of outward conduct and the visible behaviour and is in effect the outward spiritual influence as we behave for Jesus; the overt external reflection of our faith.
Both salt and light should be disseminated carefully. Salt can sting if placed in a wound and light can blind if aimed directly into someone’s eyes. Kindness and diplomacy in the sharing of truth can never be over emphasized.
Motivation is addressed in the 16th verse. Jesus said that the reason we shine is so that people will take note of positive and productive lifestyles and “…glorify our Father in heaven.”
When we are salt and light we become a nobody telling everybody about Somebody who will save anybody who will call on Him.
“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…” (Matthew 5:13, 14 abridged)