“You are the salt of the earth, but if the 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 a 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.”
For as long as there has been salt, it has been used as a preservative. Adding large quantities of salt to something will preserve it for longer periods of time than if you didn’t. Most of us probably think of a favorite salt-cured food (ham from Cracker Barrel) for an example of salt being used as a preservative. Salt-cured food is more of a luxury for us today but at one time it was the easiest way to preserve meat for long periods of time. Here, Jesus tells the disciples they are in fact “the salt of the earth.” However, salt is not limited to being a preservative, and in Matthew’s context as well as the rest of the Bible it means much more. In some places, it is used to connote sacrifice. In others, it is used to talk about loyalty and fidelity. Eating together was called “salt sharing.” Salt also represents purification and (as I have discussed) preservation. Broadened understandings of the uses of salt serve to deepen Jesus’ declaration that those who follow Him are the “salt of the earth.” The reason salt is used in so many different ways and to represent so many different things is because it is distinctly salty. It has distinct qualities which make it literally and metaphorically useful. Christians are called to be distinctly salty. Any church that adapts itself into society so much so that its distinctive and definitive salty identity is lost, is flavorless and dull – it ceases to be salt.
Light is, well, light! By its very definition light illumines darkness. Light is interesting because light does not make things brighter so that you can see it better but so that other things may be seen. As Christians, Jesus calls us to be lights both as individuals but also together as the community of God. We are light, not for the sake of making ourselves brighter, but to illuminate the world around us to the truth of God revealed in Jesus Christ.
We are called to be salty light, having the distinctive qualities of what it means to be God’s people and shining as lights, not for our sakes but for the sake of world.