Salt and Light (Matthew 5:13-16

Published on Friday, 10 November 2017 11:01
The first question to work out concerns who Jesus is speaking to here. We find an answer to that question by noting the use of the plural personal pronoun. He is speaking to the same people as he addressed in verses 11 and 12. In those verses, he speaks to his disciples as those who will be opposed and persecuted and maligned. We would deduce from that description that they would not have much influence. Therefore, we can say that those who are salt and light don’t need to have much influence in order to be salt and light.

Another detail we can observe is that some of the disciples have only been his followers for a very short time. Those who have been his disciples the longest have only been so for just over a year. Yet Jesus says to them that they are the salt and the light. He does not say to them that they should become salt and light. Instead they already are. 

Moreover, his disciples probably had never left the land of Israel when this description was made of them. Yet Jesus does not say that they are the salt of Canaan or the light of Israel. Instead they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world despite never having left the country to which they belonged.

The above details would suggest that being salt and light has nothing to do with a place of influence in society or how long they had been disciples or where they lived. To those items we can add that it has nothing to do with their numbers either because when Jesus said this the number of disciples was not large. 

Of course, the number of disciples would grow and eventually appear in thousands of places throughout the world. Today there are millions of Christians and many of them are persecuted. Which are the salt and the light? Those who are opposed or those who are not so opposed (because every Christian should be opposed to some extent)? The correct answer is that both groups are because being salt and light does not depend on their circumstances.

Today, in our society, Christians are being sidelined. Does this mean that they are no longer salt and light? No, because there being salt and light does not depend on their involvement in the power structures of the world. Even if no one listens to them, they are still the salt and the light where they are.

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