Good morning, happy Tuesday, and many blessings.
In Matthew 5:13-16 the Lord summarizes the function of believers in the world. Reduced to one word, that function is influence. Whoever lives according to the Beatitudes is going to function in the world as salt and light. Christian character consciously or unconsciously affects other people for better or for worse. When we live the life of the Beatitudes some people will respond favorably and be saved, whereas others will ridicule and persecute us. Though Jesus was speaking before a great multitude of people on the hillside, His teaching about kingdom life was primarily for His disciples, for those who believed in Him. The principles He teaches here are appropriate only for believers, for they are impossible to follow apart from the power of God’s own Spirit. Here is a mandate for Christians to influence the world. The Beatitudes are not to be lived in isolation or only among fellow believers, but everywhere we go.
The figures of salt and light emphasize different characteristics of influence, but their basic purpose is the same. In Matthew 5:13-16 we are to have an impact on society and in this section of God’s word we can see how God enables us for 1) Being Salt & Light (Matthew 5:13a, 14), the problem if we are 2) Not being Salt & Light (Matthew 5:13b, 15), and 3) The Benefit of being Salt & Light (Matthew 5:16).
Of course, most of us know what light does. It eliminates darkness! It allows us to see! No one ever says, “I’m afraid of the light!” No! They say, “I’m afraid of the dark!” The light eliminates darkness, fear, and it allows people to see. We should want to shine the light!
On the other hand, he says that His followers are salt. Salt had two purposes in the Middle East of the first century. Because of the lack of refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food, especially meat, which would quickly spoil in the desert environment. Believers in Christ are preservatives to the world, preserving it from the evil inherent in the society of ungodly people whose unredeemed natures are corrupted by sin. Second, salt was used then, as now, as a flavor enhancer. In the same way that salt enhances the flavor of the food it seasons, the followers of Christ stand out as those who “enhance” the flavor of life in this world. Christians, living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to Christ, will inevitably influence the world for good, as salt has a positive influence on the flavor of the food it seasons. Where there is strife, we are to be peacemakers; where there is sorrow, we are to be the ministers of Christ, binding up wounds, and where there is hatred, we are to exemplify the love of God in Christ, returning good for evil.
It seems, then, that the role of the Christian as salt and light in the world may be hindered or prevented through any choice to compromise or settle for that which is more convenient or comfortable, rather than that which is truly best and pleasing to the Lord. Moreover, the status of salt and light is something that follows naturally from the Christian’s humble obedience to the commandments of Christ.