Jesus said that we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. He describes the timing very specifically… not a future orientation but a present reality in our lives. As His follower, I am already the salt and light, which is good. Our culture has grown accustomed to God “telling us what to do”, but, in this case, we are being told what we already are.. Not be — are. However, Jesus does point out a risk: that we could lose our saltiness and that our light could be hidden. “If the salt loses its saltiness, how in the world are you going to make it salty again? And if you put your lamp under a bowl, no one will be able to see, see?”
Being salt is good. Salt preserves, flavors, enlivens, etc. Being light is good. Light illuminates and benefits everyone around it. Jesus doesn’t say to His followers “try and be salt” — that is, “try to preserve the decay around you — He says “don’t lose your saltiness.” He doesn’t say “try to be light” — that is, “endeavor to find a spark that lights you up” — rather, Jesus says “don’t cover up your light.” Jesus is the one who makes us salt and light, not us. Our responsibility is to maintain, not attain.
Fascinating. We try so hard to attain something, but it is already offered. Often, though, we don’t try very hard to keep it. The risk: what we’ve already got can be rendered ineffective because of how we live. I have encouraged people by saying “be salt, be light”, when what I should have said was “don’t lose your saltiness, don’t hide your light.” These statements sound similar but imply very different situations.
If my job is to become salt, I work hard to do salty things so that one day I can earn the title of Salty McGee. If my job is to shine, I try to find the spark and become ol’ Lampy McLite. It’s all about my work, my earning of some kind of status. If I don’t get it, it’s my fault. If I do get there, I say “well, God helped me quite a bit” but, in reality, what I’m thinking is “I did it! I became salt! Look at me, I’m all bright and stuff!” Nah. I can’t earn this.
Jesus has fulfilled something on the cross. Jesus is the light of the world who shares His light in those who believe. Therefore, any light that pours out of us can only be for God’s glory. Any preservation is His.
Ya got lamps in your house, right? Sure, we all do. Those lamps have cords, shades, switches, and bulbs. You’ve probably spent a lot of time looking at the bulb, right? Just staring at it, adoring its curliness, its cool, blue hue, its subtle hummmmm. People come over to your house and run over to your lamp and ooh and aaahh because it’s just so awesome. That’s an awesome lamp, friend.
If this describes you, your friends are moths.
Obviously, people pay attention to what the light illuminates. The walls. The painting. The pictures. The dog, piddling. Oh: look at that. Does it always… oh. Well, I’m happy to see the dog, too. Then you walk your guests into the kitchen and show them the Key Lime pie you made earlier today with the coconut shavings and the custom crust. Yet they didn’t even remark on the new T5 bulbs you put into the fluorescent fixture in the kitchen. Why? They’re amazed by your pie and couldn’t care less about your light bulbs. “Good work!” they say, in reference to the Key Lime Pie— and now, we’re getting to the crux. You couldn’t have done it without the light. You had it, you used it, they’re impressed by your good work of piemanship.
Did you make the pie to earn the light? No. You made the pie to feed your friend some delicious. “This tastes like Christmas!” they exclaim after just one bite, and you shrug your shoulders as if it wasn’t nothin’, though it was indeed something (somethin’).
I’m trying to say two things, here:
1) No one claims that they are the light – that’s ridiculous. But they can claim that they have a lamp.
2) We are to be doers of good work, i.e. pie makers, and not light earners.
I firmly believe that people want to live good lives. I hold to the belief that just about everyone wants to make a positive impact on the world. I also know that people are broken, myself included, and that we are often part of the problem. Whatever imagery one might use to describe the issues of our world, most are synonymous with darkness and decay. Following Jesus makes the biggest impact on the world because we get our saltiness and illumination from Him.
Jesus is the wisdom of God; He offers exactly what is needed to cure what ails.
To attain this, we follow Him. When I follow Jesus, I become His light to the world, for His glory. I become His preservative and jumpin’ flavor, hopefully making this world less boring and more alive.
People want that. They like to see that in others. God enjoys seeing that in us.
Reference: Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
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.