Some of the Anabaptists of the sixteenth century had a very literal take on the words of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount, “if the salt loses its saltiness, it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”
At the end of the service they would have the Christians among them that lost their saltiness lay at the threshold of the door. The rest of the congregation as they were leaving the service would then walk on those who lost their saltiness.
I don’t know how they decided who would trample and who would be trampled, but useless Christians who have lost their saltiness cause damage and Jesus used this imagery. They are: no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. In short, Jesus calls us to be salt and light.
Sermon on the Mount: Salt and Light
We often times find ourselves living one our two extremes of the Christian life. One extreme is to just be an example. This extreme does not see the need to tell people about Christ. But people need to know why you are different and how through Jesus Christ, they can experience the transformed life.
The second extreme is to tell others about Christ but have a poor testimony. This person gives a verbal witness, but their life is not attractive to those without Christ. We are called to both. We are to be an example and we are to give a verbal witness. We need to have both of these elements of example and verbal witness to make an impact.
It is a powerful combination when we live a Christian example and that is accompanied by a spoken witness. To make this point Jesus uses a couple of examples that all his hearers on the Sermon on the Mount will relate to. We are to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.
The Salt of the earth
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 by men.
I heard a Pastor tell the story about one of his church members who worked in a salt mine. He asked them if he could tour the mine. I would imagine Jesus words on being the salt of the earth gave him this interest in seeing the salt mine. After visiting the mine he drew out the qualities of salt to our duties as a Christian.
What did Jesus mean when he told us we are the salt of the earth? Did he mean that we are little cubes of sodium and chloride? It means we make an impact.
After the expansion of a company was opposed by people of a town the company wanted to demonstrate the difference it made. So people would see the impact they started paying its employees in silver dollars. Soon after that silver dollars began to flow all over the town. Since no one was using silver dollars before this people could see the impact that was not noticed before. Once the town saw influence of the company they did not oppose the expansion.
It may not be obvious at first and it may go unnoticed by many but when we are the salt of the earth we will have a profound impact.
Salt preserves food.
In the time that Jesus spoke there were no refrigerators to store the meat and it was very hot. The meat could spoil in the heat so salt was rubbed on the meat to preserve it. The salt prevented the meat from spoiling.
Society is bad, but if Christians were suddenly taken off the scene there would be decay. The church is the preservative. Christian is the salt preserving God’s moral standards. Even a small percentage of Christians can have a profound effect on keeping society from decaying just like a little salt can preserve meat.
Salt makes food taste better and adds flavor. Without salt some food is bland and tasteless. We need to help people who are living a bland life without the joy of Christ. They need to know joy. They need to know truth and that God has a purpose for them. Their life needs to be flavored by God’s grace and mercy.
A king called for his three daughters and asked each one how much they loved him. Two of them answered that they cared for him more than all the gold and silver in the world but the youngest, said she loved him like salt. The king wasn’t pleased with her answer, for he considered salt to be of very little value.
The cook, who overheard the conversation, knew that the child’s reply had more significance than the father imagined. She dared not speak to the king, but planned a subtle way to emphasize the true meaning of the young girl’s words. The next morning at breakfast she withheld the salt from everything she served, and the meal was so bland that the king didn’t enjoy it at all. Then he realized the full force of his daughter’s remark.
When Jesus spoke these words salt was so valuable that it was used as the measure of trading and bartering.
Salt has healing qualities. That’s why you were told to gargle with salt water when you had a sore throat. Dentists tell patients to rinse with salt water when there are sores in the mouth.
Newborn babies were rubbed in salt solution:
Ezekiel 16:4 On the day you were born your cord was not cut, nor were you washed with water to make you clean, nor were you rubbed with salt or wrapped in cloths.
People need to know the reality that broken lives can be made whole again in Jesus Christ. There is healing for the spiritually sick who need Jesus.
Salt Produces Thirst
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink. But you can put salt in the horses oats to make him thirsty. Someone really living for Christ makes others thirsty to know Christ. It gives people a thirst to drink the living water and never thirst again.
Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither 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. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.
Jesus said in John 8:12 12When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
Here in this verse His disciples are to be the light of the world. How can that be? John 1:9 Jesus enlightens every man. People should see Jesus in us as we die to self and live to Christ. Jesus the light of the world shines more and more in our lives.
Like the blind who has their sight restored by surgery. The light of Christ comes to the spiritually blind. We should not let people in spiritual darkness be kept from the light. We should put our light on a hill so everyone will know the Light that has come into the world.
Light Points the Way
Philippians 2:15 so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
Like the words of the song, “I saw the light, no more darkness, no more night.” Show people the way of salvation. Like a lighthouse leading people from the dangers of their own sinful ways to a saving relationship in Jesus Christ. You are the light pointing the way to Jesus in a world lost in darkness.
Light that Radiates Joy
In the Scriptures sin and evil is represented by darkness. John 1:5, 5The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
In contrast God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. Our lives are to reflect the light of Christ within.
There should be joy in our lives. Happiness, blessedness that Jesus spoke about in the beatitudes that Jesus spoke in the previous verses. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. It is in view where everyone can see it. You don’t put a candle under a basket or a lamp under a bowl. You put a lamp in a prominent place and you will illumine the whole room. Otherwise the lamp is just a waste. You put a light up on a stand so everyone receives its lights. We do not retreat from the world, but let them see the light of Christ in us.
Don’t let a basket or a bowl hide your light. Let your light shine before men them they will see your good deeds. Later in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warns of practicing righteousness as a show like the Pharisees. We should bring glory to God and not ourselves.
Salt and light do their work silently. After a good meal no one ever says, tell the chief that was great salt used in the meal. No salt brought out the flavor and the food got noticed.