#30: Salt and Light

Matthew 5:13–16

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

So when did Britain become such a foody nation? Who was the first person to put great, modern food on the telly? Was it baby-faced Jamie, foul-mouthed Gordon, or delectable Nigella? Speaking as a non-chef and pretty much non-kitchen person, I have this old-fashioned view that salt is about taste. Good food should taste good and a bit of salt brings up the taste. So salt is important, and as for light, who wants to live in a world without candles. These days people can’t even go to a pop concert, remember an old friend or even have a bath without lighting a few. So when Jesus talks about salt and light he is scratching where we itch.

The word gospel means ‘Good News’. Most of the time Jesus lays it on thick about God drawing close to us, caring for us, rescuing and forgiving us and pouring out his eternal love and life. All of this, God’s generosity and love beyond love, we call Grace. It is undeserved yet given gladly. Every now and again however Jesus makes it clear that he expects his followers to do a bit of giving themselves.

He expects us to be salt, to give our taste, our quality, our value to the world. As a follower of Jesus who is trying to become like him, I ought to have a certain honesty, integrity, compassion for others and sense of justice. Well I can simply keep all this to myself living a sort of smugly puritanical lifestyle, or I can share it with my world. My country, my city, even my local community, they all need saltiness. My workplace, social club, school and family are all like unsalted bags of crisps. Once upon a time packets of crisps used to contain bright, blue little bags of salt. Only when the salt was broken open did the crisps become truly tasty.

So where will I scatter my salt today? Or to put it a bit better, amongst whom or over which people will I scatter my salt today?

  • Someone at work
  • Friends at church
  • A member of my family
  • The person who I have stopped talking to

The same applies to light. Light shows up the truth, illuminates the right path, helps people feel secure, and makes the world a more colourful place. Well it does when it is lifted up. Jesus saw himself as the light of the world (Jn 8:12). When he was born the star and angels laid on a great lightshow, when he died a great darkness came over the land (Mt 27:45). Cosmic sunrise to black hole all in one lifetime.

Today we are the lightshow. So using the language of verse 15 ask yourself:

  • What or where’s ‘your house’?
  • Who else lives in the house?
  • How are you shining light on them?

Salt and light are about lifestyle and character as well as words and image. They are about who we are, what we do, and how we speak. Later on in the Sermon Jesus takes this double image or metaphor and applies it to our anger management (v21), marital faithfulness (v27), divorce (31), personal honesty (v33), generosity (v38) and love for our enemies (v43). These are all real-life issues, not Sunday morning in church, but seven days a week in the world issues. Are we saltily flavoursome in our financial generosity or are we tasteless and tight-fisted? Are our relationships characterised by a lightsome smile or are they grey and full of shadows?

That is an awful lot of salt and light. Enough, in fact, to change the world, making it a tastier and brighter place.

You truly were the light of the world,
And the salt of the earth.
Help me become like you,
That I might never lose my saltiness,
Or hide my light.
And that the place where I live,
Might be a better home.