After the portion of Matthew 5 known as the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12), there are two more points before Jesus gets into a number of related illustrations of how the kingdom of heaven expects more from its followers than just legalism. These “bonus topics” aren’t Beatitudes (i.e., no formal pronouncement of blessing appears), but Jesus continued to describe the reality of the kingdom of heaven, teaching His disciples – and us – how things work in that kingdom:
“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 underfoot.
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16 NIV
If you’ve been in the church for a while, I suspect that you’ve heard sermons on this passage before. (If not, just ask a trusted pastor or friend who follows Jesus for some context, or leave me some feedback and I’d be happy to share more.) I’m pretty sure that others have covered the historical and theological details better than I will here.
Still, I could repeat to you how salt was used to preserve food in the first century, and how followers of Jesus have a role in pointing lost souls to Jesus, so that people who are dead in their sins can be “preserved” with new life in Jesus.
I could tell you how salt makes things tastier, but you might think that we have to artificially make Jesus “look good” in this world. In fact, many sinful people were attracted to Jesus just as He was, and as we present a complete picture of Him to the world (including both truth and grace), some lost people will find that appealing. So, if we live like Jesus did, and teach what He taught (with the attitude that He taught it), we should expect success: not because we’re really awesome, but because that’s part of the process through which God has often chosen to draw people to Himself.
I could reiterate how lamps could light up an entire house in the first century, or how they might be hidden to let the occupants work in secret (although I only heard that last theory once).
Instead, though, let me tell you about this building in London called the “Walkie-Talkie”. I saw this science show on TV that showed how this building’s concave surface focused the sunlight on the street below, making it super-hot – kind of like a magnifying glass – with some amusing effects (unless you’re the one whose stuff was getting fried). We are in a world where we sometimes have so much light (including on this building) that we have to block some of it out.
However, if you’ve stumbled in a dark room, or had to walk through a dark alley at night (fearing for your safety), you can start to appreciate how lost people are trying to find their way through life. Despite having access to overwhelming amounts of information on the Internet, there are many people who can’t find hope on Facebook, can’t find peace in the news, and can’t find an eternal purpose in their current role. They are just getting by, going through the motions of responsibilities and relationships, trying to find something to fill that hole in their heart.
The world is a dark place: not just because it’s winter and the days are short, but because sin has won a lot of battles in the lives of those who are still far from God. The good news is that a little light of Jesus today can go a long way in a dark, dark world.
Like the comfort of a warm house after being out in the dark of a cold night, those of us who have found the light can point people to the better life that Jesus offers. It doesn’t matter if the lost people we know are really sinful or really broken or really hurting: They need God’s love, God’s truth, God’s grace, and God’s mercy. So, let us show them love, teach them truth in grace, and give them the same kind of mercy that we were given. Lost people are not our enemy. They are our mission field, and they could become part of our family: adopted just like we were into the family of God.
What simple good news about Jesus could you share today? Give someone hope. Explain how a struggling lost soul can find something better. Serve someone in Jesus’ name, and tell them that they can also have a Savior, a purpose, and an eternal home.
May you be blessed today, and may you be salt and light this week so that more people find those same blessings. It’s cold and dark out there!
Based on Sunday School Lesson prepared for January 3, 2021.
- LESSON FOR JAN. 3, 2021: BACKWARD BLESSINGS, by Mark Scott: https://christianstandard.com/2020/12/lesson-for-jan-3-2021-backward-blessings-matthew-51-16/
- DO THE OPPOSITE (JAN. 3 LESSON APPLICATION), by David Faust: https://christianstandard.com/2020/12/do-the-opposite-jan-3-lesson-application/
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Matthew, by Larry Chouinard. College Press Publishing Company, © 1997, p. 89-102.