Salt and Light on Earth

Salt and Light on Earth December 22, 2023

Image created on Midjourney by Michael Warren

Salt and Light on Earth

We are to be the light of the world, the salt of the earth. I like to use the word “we” because it takes the weight of that statement off my shoulders. “We” means that I can let the professionals handle all of that business of being light. Instead, I can focus on my own personal responsibilities at work and at home. Let the pastors and missionaries be the ones to be the light of the world; I have to make sure that my kids are getting decent grades in school and not causing too much trouble. I will take my family to church on Sunday (if I have nothing else going on), and thus, I have done my job. I put a little heart and thumbs up on all of my pastor’s posts because, well, I want to encourage him, and sometimes I even re-post what he says. That way, I have done my part of the “we” to be the world’s light.

I can’t be expected to do much more than that for several reasons:

  • I am too busy as it is. Sometimes, I even have to miss my weekly pickleball game.
  • I never went to Bible school. I don’t know Hebrew or Greek. I’ll google verses now and then, but I don’t remember them off the top of my head.
  • I’m comfortable talking with other Christians about God, but I don’t know what to say if they have a different perspective.
  • I don’t want people to be uncomfortable around me. I want everybody to walk in their truth without feeling like I am judging them.

I am content to be part of the royal “we,” where there are no expectations placed on me personally to be the light of the world. Besides, that business is best left to the professionals, and I am simply an amateur. I dabble in Christianity on the weekends, but it is not where I get my paycheck.

Unfortunately for me, Jesus was not calling pastors or missionaries to be salt and light; He was talking to a group of laypersons.

A Call for the Amateurs

The passage of the Bible where Jesus charges us to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world is found in Matthew 5, right after the beatitudes. That is the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. Notice that this was not Jesus preaching in the Temple. It was not a dissertation to the Jewish courts. It was not even a response to one of the many questions and challenges from the Pharisees and religious leaders. It was part of a sermon to the general public. It was a call to ordinary people who lived and worked, raised families, and maybe followed the Sabbath, but maybe not. It was a call to the average person who lived in the world, not to the religious leaders who had separated themselves from the world.

And it’s the same now. Pastors, preachers, missionaries, and anybody who works for a church or religious organization have been largely separated from the world. This is not to denigrate those called to full-time ministry, nor does this excuse any sinful behavior in their personal, private lives. On the contrary, they have a higher calling with more responsibility and accountability (See Hebrews 13:17).

But Jesus was talking to regular folk. He called us amateurs to a greater purpose. We are to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth. When we go to work, when we are out in our neighborhoods, and in our homes to our families, we are to shine bright as being different from those around us.

Light of the World

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 underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

-Matthew 5:13-16

The world is a dark place. It is not hard to find people who “invent ways of doing evil” (Romans 1:30). We are to be a contrast to this. Wherever we go, we are to be a beacon. In our families, with our friends, in our neighborhoods and workplaces. Unfortunately, this will always take time, and it means that I have to be on the lookout for opportunities. It means that I cannot focus only on myself and my needs. Practically, this can start as simply as showing genuine interest in other people’s lives.

This goes against our human nature. It is stated later on that “neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.” The natural temptation will always be to hide. It will be safer, we will face no rejection, and we can live and work in peace without ruffling any feathers. But that is not what God has called us to do. He has called us to “let [our] light shine before others, that they may see [our] good deeds and glorify [our] Father in heaven.”

This is uncomfortable. It is much more comfortable for me to keep my head down, take care of my own stuff, and let everybody else be on their own. I can remain comfortable enough if I share the work that the Lord is doing in me with a few friends and family. But this is not what Jesus entreats. We are to be a town built on a hill, showing everybody how the Lord is working in us.

Salt of the Earth

We are also to be salt. Many messages are floating around on the internet describing the different properties and uses of salt in Biblical times. But when taken together with the idea of being the light of the world, it is more about standing out. Salt is for flavor. It brings out the flavor.

And these verses coincide wonderfully with Colossians 4:5-6: “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

We are to be salty and flavorful. With our conversations, we are to be full of grace, enjoyable, and, once again, standing out.

This leads us to the danger seen in many, many churches today: dull, bland, and unremarkable people. The tendency of a Christian is to become homogenized and not stand out. It is hard to find a place for those who act weird or different. It would be safer if everybody just said the Christian clichés and behaved as expected. But this would be losing our saltiness. The salt is the flavor of who God created us to be. We are to bring flavor and life to every conversation, especially to those who do not know Jesus.

It is about the contrast with those around us.

Different through Grace

We amateur Christians are the ones Jesus called to be different. We are to be a light in the darkness, drawing people to God through his work in us. We are to be the salty, flavorful ones as we become more and more the people God designed us to be. And through it all, we can only do this through God’s grace.

There is nothing about me that is special or uniquely amazing. The only thing special about me is what God has done for me and in me. That is the light that I can shine. That is the salt that I can pour forth. I can seek opportunities to help, pray for, and bless those around me. I can be the one that people can confide in because I am also honest with them. And I can refuse to hide what God has done or what He is doing.

Start simply. Talk to your coworkers and neighbors. Take an interest in what is going on with them. Rejoice when they rejoice, and grieve when they grieve. Share your rejoices and grief with them. And above all, pray for them. If the opportunity arises, pray with them.

Shine bright and stay salty.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!