November 1, 2015 | text: Matthew 5:13-16
Salt and light. I thought to myself “Surely I’ve preached on this before.” I looked back through the archives of the church website. I mentioned it in a newspaper article just two weeks ago; but that was in the paper, not in the pulpit. I found a reference to Matthew 5:16 in a sermon back in June. It was an item in a list of things Christians are to called to; the sermon text was from 2 Peter. So if I preached a salt of the earth/ light of the world sermon at this church it hasn’t been in the last six months. And it’s kind of important so let’s look at this command of Jesus together.
You are the salt of the earth. Some facts about salt:
1. The chemical compound we call table salt is sodium chloride. By itself sodium is highly reactive. When it comes in contact with oxygen it bursts into flame and sometimes explodes. Sodium is very dangerous and not just because it raises your blood pressure. Chlorine of course is deadly poison. Just a small amount added to the thousands of gallons of water in a home swimming pool prevents mold, bacteria and viruses from living and growing in the water. My mother once soaked several pair of socks in chlorine bleach overnight to make them white again. In the morning there was nothing left! The stains were gone, the socks were gone, everything had dissolved completely. Sodium and chlorine are both caustic and dangerous on their own but they combine to form salt. Anytime an acid and a base combine the reactants cancel each other out and a salt is produced. What is the natural state of man? To be at enmity with God. Our base nature is to focus on self and satisfy sin. God is holy; he does not sin and cannot be tempted to sin. The heart of man and the heart of God are polar opposites – but when the blood of Jesus is applied to the sinner something new is created. The Christian believer, follower of Jesus Christ, is the salt of earth.
2. A little bit of salt makes a big difference. I know I have said this before: a dash of salt added to green beans, mashed potatoes or a slice of fresh tomato makes bland tastes pop. A little bit of salt added to hot chocolate doesn’t make it taste like salt but it stimulates the taste buds on your tongue and you can taste the chocolate better. Adding salt makes a difference, even it’s a difference you don’t want (such as a prank glass of milk). The command Jesus is giving is to make a difference in the world we live in. Don’t blend into the background. A few Christians sprinkled onto the earth will make a noticeable difference whether people like it or not! Go the extra mile, show kindness to strangers (and enemies), visit the fatherless and the widow, work hard, be honest – and you don’t have to tell people that you are a Christian in order for them to notice there is something different.
You are the light of the world. I recently learned something new about this verse. When I was in the 5th grade I was given one of those little red New Testaments the Gideons hand out. I have been in church my entire life and studying the Bible for most of my life and only recently did I discover this: In John chapter 1 Jesus is the light of the world. “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.” (John 1:6-9) Jesus was the true light that came into the world. But if we go back to verse 4, it says “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.” In our sin we were dead to God. But the born again believer has the same life inside that Jesus had. We are no longer dead. Those of us that are born again have the life and the Spirit in us. So Jesus said to his followers in Matthew 5:14 “You are the light of the world.” He was the light that came into the world and shined in spiritual darkness but that light is now in us. Let your light shine!
A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; a lamp is not lit and hid under a basket. There is an individual and a collective command given in verses 14 -16. Each of us on an individual basis must shine brightly to all the members of our household. But when we come together as a church we are like a city on a hill. We are a lighthouse shining into the community. And all believers everywhere, the universal Church of God, the body of Christ, is a lighthouse to the world. We can do more together than we can apart or working against each other. We must lift and build each other up, encouraging one another to good works. “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” We are not saved by our works; but our good works testify of the one that works in us. Our light is his life and it gives life to those that receive it.
We are the salt of the earth, we are the light of the world. We are the body of Christ. I looked around and saw people hurting, saw children starving, and I said “God, why don’t you do something?” He said “I did something. I made you.”