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You wouldn't want to live without salt or light.
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.
Matthew 5:13-16 NKJV
Salt and Light
I woke up this morning, knowing I messed up badly yesterday. It was a running-around day with my husband. But I had my mind on writing this page and would rather have been at the computer typing away. Which means I wasn't much living the present moment; I was somewhere else. And it showed. When we stopped at the library where my husband wanted to read the newspaper, my anger exploded inside of me. Why did I have to waste my valuable time while he checked out what was happening in the world! My gosh, it was a library-- wouldn't you think I could find something worthy of my attention!
But no, I was impatient and wanting to get on with the day's agenda. Just get it done so I could go home. I wanted to write about being the salt of the earth and the light of the world! Isn't that ironic, even laughable! Such a disconnect.
Are you talking to me, Jesus? Telling me about salt and light? I've just been through an awful day where I bungled my selfish way along, bringing more discomfort to the people around me than anything of a positive nature. When we retired for the night, we were in the same bed but we were many miles apart.
Regrets. What are we to do with them? If I could just go back to yesterday and start over and get it right this time. As I was waking up this morning, I was glad to have new day, another 24 hours, in which to attempt some damage control and try to make up for the waste of yesterday. I need to learn again and again the lesson of living in the present moment. I have learned and relearned a million times to value and appreciate the people or person I am with at the moment. And still I forget.
When I got home from work today, I pulled out my cell phone and called him. "Honey, I'm out in the driveway. Just called because I like to talk to you over the phone. . . . Love you. I'm coming in."
Salt seems a simple thing. You can't see the salt in the soup, but you know when it is absent. The salt Jesus talked about was used to preserve meat and other foods, to clean wounds and prevent infection,and to add flavor and zest to meals. It probably came from the Dead Sea, and was easily contaminated with clay and grit. Over time it became diluted to the point of not being effective. Then it was thrown out the window and into the street. Good, pure salt was a treasure that was hidden away, covered and protected.
Workers were often paid in salt. Our word "salary" comes from the Latin salarium, which literally means "salt-money." You wouldn't want to be known as a person "not worth their salt."
Today we've found another use for salt. It melts ice and prevents injuries. We know too that excessive sweating causes the body to lose salt. Hence the Gatorade to restore the balance. Salt is useful, helpful and necessary. It makes the earth livable.
Light is also most appreciated when it is absent. We take the daylight for granted, and turn on the electric lights at dusk. Only when the power fails and we find ourselves in total darkness, do we realize the importance of light. Light is the difference between safety and harm, confidence and fear, life and death. Light is useful, helpful and necessary. You could not live without it.
Dirty salt and concealed light; both are useless, they help no one. Salt does no good if it sits unused in its container, just as light serves no benefit under a basket. Purity gives salt its potential, but it must be applied in order to achieve its purpose. For objects of illumination, it's the placement of the light which allows it to shine brightly with maximum effect.
Let your light so shine, Jesus said, so that others will see some goodness in the world and God in heaven will be praised. The word for "good" which describes works, is kalos. It means attractive, beautiful, lovely. A good, steady light will shine from the lamppost so everyone can see the kind and gracious hand of God.
The people Jesus spoke to were mostly poor, their country occupied by Rome. With these images Jesus showed them how valuable and necessary they were to him and to the world. You who hear my words. You who really listen. You who believe and put into practice what I am telling you. No matter where you are in life. No matter how much money or how little you have in your pocket. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world.
With these words Jesus lifted them up and out of life as they knew it. He took them from their zone of protection and stirred them into the stew. He lit their lamp and placed them on a lamppost. No room for feelings of inferior status, such as being trampled underfoot and suffocated by restrictions. Jesus gave them a new name. This is who you are--salt and light to the world.
Images of good salt and unrestrained light gave those disciples a sense of purpose, and a mission to fulfill. Individually they would fail many times; collectively they would triumph. It is the same for us. We are his disciples now, and the images remain unchanged--into the mix of the soup pot, up high on the light post, maybe even a lighthouse. . . .
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: Share a brief story about someone you consider to be the salt of the earth.
Describe a time when you had to go without salt or light. What can you learn from that experience which would help you understand what it means to be salt and light for God?
Salt and light are both very common images. What are some practical and specific ways that we can be like salt or light? How can we express our faith in a manner which is helpful to others? What do you do to make the world a better place? Are there negative uses of salt and light which we should avoid?
Later on in this Sermon on the Mount we read that Jesus faulted religious people for appearing pious in public and repetitiously performing rituals. How is that kind of piety different from being a light to the world?
If you think you won't be appreciated until you are gone, don't worry. It's not about you anyway. It's about bringing honor and glory to God. What does it mean to you to be honored and praised for doing good? How do our good works translate into praise and recognition for God?
How do you feel about the quality of your salt? What is it that makes a person pure and effective? How do you prevent the build-up of grit and dust?Think about the "Out of the shaker and into the stew" scenario. Are you eager or hesitant for such an adventure?Is your light steady and shining where needed? How far does it reach?Jesus expanded our horizons when he said the salt of the earth and light of the world. What do you think he meant by earth and world?Where do you have the most success with being salt and light? Home, workplace, school, church, community, around the globe?
Are you proud to be a child of God? If you don't like the word proud, what other word would you substitute? Under what circumstances do you talk about your relationship with God? When do you hold your tongue and remain silent? Is that hiding your light? Being wise? Or what?