Sermon on the Mount: Salt and Light – Matthew 5:13-16

The Sermon on the Mount starts with the Beatitudes and then Jesus has something to say about the role of his followers. He calls us the salt of the earth as well as the light of the world. Rather than to withdraw from the world, we are to be engaged with it, making a difference by our presence.

Salt of the Earth

“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.

Matthew 5:13 NIV

The most important purpose for salt in the ancient world was to act as a preservative. Without refrigerator, meat would quickly spoil. But salt could be used to draw out the moisture and allow the meat to last much longer. And that is most likely what Jesus had in mind here. We are to act as a preservative, preventing the world from going bad. We should have a positive influence on those around us.

It seems common, at least in the U.S. to think that we should pass laws to legislate morality. But I do not believe that is what Jesus is talking about here. It should be our day to day interactions with the people around us that positively influences them. Our lives should counter the corrupting influences of our secular and ungodly society.

Light of the World

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:14-16 NIV

Light and darkness are used frequently to refer to spiritual conditions. John said that Christ is the light of the world (John 1:4-9). And his light shone into the spiritual darkness of this world. As his followers, that same light should shine out from him, through us, into a world that is still dark.

That light is within us. But what will we do with it? Jesus warns us not to hide the light. But to put it on display for all the world to see. The world will resist that light, making it tempting to hide it and avoid the conflict. We need to resist that temptation and boldly let his light shine out through us for all the world to see.

Jesus will later warn us about doing our acts of righteousness to be seen by men. That is a warning against drawing attention to ourselves. This passage is different. We are to live good lives before the world in order to point them to our Lord. Our lives should be radically different from those in the world. So much so that others will notice the difference and be attracted to it, and ultimately glorify our Lord. Being the salt of the earth and light of the world should be how all of Jesus’ followers live.

The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.

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