Sitting on the Mountainside-Studies in The Sermon on the Mount

Day 14: “Salt and Light” Part One 08.20.18

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV) 13 “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 by men. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.
15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

In our study of persecution, we asked why anyone would object to a neighbor who had these qualities:
Spiritually hungry?

Mournful about our troubled world?

Meek and humble as they relate to others?
Hungry and thirsty for righteousness?

Merciful?

Filled with a pure heart?

A peacemaker?

We suggested that these characteristics are fine but godless people often cannot embrace them. But consider this: after Jesus listed these traits, what did he do next? In effect, he said “OK…this is how you should be with the Holy Spirit at work in you and NOW I have an assignment for you! I want you to affect your world…your culture…your society because it really will need your Kingdom of God influence. You are to be salt and light!”

Consider these last few days. The news has shown us that hundreds of sexual crimes have been committed by Catholic priests in Pennsylvania. A husband and father in Colorado murdered his wife and three children in an unthinkably horrible manner. Several policemen were shot to death in inner city tensions. The President and his enemies exchanged furious accusations yet again leaving everyone weary of the endless wrangling. The list is without boundaries regarding the darkness in our world. We all see it.

And why is that so? The Word of God says this:
John 3:19-20 (NIV) 19 “This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.”

Let’s go back to the first part of the metaphor. Salt. Jesus said 13 “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 by men.” Salt does several things. It adds flavor. It can act as a preservative. And it can heal.

A quick story from my own “odd things that happen” department. One time I was preparing to conduct an elder’s meeting. I stepped into the men’s room to freshen up including a quick shave. I should say a hurried shave because I cut myself with the razor. I have thin blood so there I was standing in the office for about ten minutes pressing against my cheek trying to stop the bleeding. One of my elders looked in and saw my dilemma. He said “Oh, here’s what you do. Come with me!” I followed him to one of the kitchens and there he took a salt shaker and filled my hand with a mound of the white stuff. Salt. Then he said “Ok now. Go to it! Push the salt into the cut. It will sting but the bleeding will stop.” Of course, it did. Salt has healing properties and can be surprisingly useful. And it did sting!

But Jesus said it is useless if it loses its saltiness. What did he mean? A quick study on salt tells us that pure and genuine salt cannot lose its saltiness. It can, however, be corrupted by other chemical agents. So, this gets even more interesting. Some scholars say that ‘wasted salt” was used to firm up walking paths or even rooftops. I am not sure. My real interest is in the idea that pure salt can be corrupted. In that sense, it loses its saltiness. It becomes impure. Thus, it is no accident that Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” The real issue is purity. Once we have come to Christ, he expects us to be a salting agent in a lost world. To live in such a way as to promote Godliness and healing of the breakage caused by sin. How shall we do that?

A short list of Biblical admonitions might be helpful. Consider:

Psalm 119:9-11 (NIV) ” How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word. 10 I seek you with all my heart; do not let me stray from your commands. 11 I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.

This, of course, is not just a reminder for young men but for all of us. Do we really want to keep our hearts pure? Is that a high priority for us? If so, that means spending time in the Word of God. Do we spend at least as much time in the Scriptures as we do watching the news or a good movie?

Psalm 101:3 (NIV) 3 I will set before my eyes no vile thing. The deeds of faithless men I hate; they will not cling to me.

This one is a real challenge. Open the internet to simply catch up on the news and you are inundated with earthy and worldly stories. Walk through the mall and see the careless dress and behaviors of so many people. One almost might have to prefer blindness to the hopeless task of “setting our eyes upon no vile thing!” And if we do that often enough, contemplate that which is vile, our salt becomes corrupted. Hmmm… tomorrow let’s talk about being the “light of the world.” If salt can lose its effect, can our lights go out or be hidden? Apparently.

Peace. Pastor Alberta

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