Who can be salt and light? (Matthew 5:13-16)

Published on Saturday, 11 November 2017 06:12
Jesus reminds his disciples that when they have the characteristics listed in the Beatitudes they will be salt and light. This means that when they are humble, penitent, passionate for righteousness, compassionate, holy, and peaceable, they will be the salt of the earth and the light of the world even if they are persecuted by it.

The two illustrations of salt and Light inform us of the nature of the world as well as of the spiritual state of his disciples. The use of salt illustrates that the world is rotten and the mention of light illustrates that the world is in darkness. The cause of these effects is sin, and since sin is always present, there will always be the need for salt and light.

The illustrations also say that God’s people and the world are radically different communities. Christians are not rotten nor are they in the dark. This is a reminder of the profound changes that Christianity makes in sinful people. The difference between a Christian and a non-Christian is the difference between light and darkness.

Yet Jesus is also pointing out that his people are not to live in isolation from the world. Isolationism is always an attractive option for Christians because it separates them from the evils of society. It is very easy for us today to exist in isolation. Indeed, pressure is put on us to do so, and we are often told that we can have our religion in private and to tolerate alternative groups. But if we are isolated to our own group, we might as well be in a monastery. 

The illustrations also indicate what Christians will be like if they are not like salt and light. The way for salt to become useless was to mix it with other elements such as sand. If that happens, says Jesus, it was only useful for making a path and not for preserving food. A Christian who is not salt has no effect on society. Similarly, light can be wasted if not used properly. If a candle is placed inside a basket, it does not give light. It may burn for a while, but not for any good reason. 

Jesus taught that there could be two consequences for his followers. The first is, become a different person and you will represent him in the world; the second is, don’t change and you will not only be useless as salt and light, you will be despised by the world.

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