the salt. the light. the simplicity.

I am ingesting the Sermon on the Mount verse by verse these days and the verse below was my morning contemplation. As I pondered and reflected, I was reminded of an article I wrote several years ago for a publication which centered around these verses. It’s a little longer than my normal blog posts, so if you don’t have time to read it all, that’s fine. But I was reminded of some things which the car horns and revving engines and scowling faces I meet every day cause me to so easily forget. If you have time, let this be a reminder.

13 Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.

14 Ye are the light of the world.
A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.

15 Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.

16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:13-16

About two years after my father passed away, the phone rang one afternoon at my mom’s home.  The gentlemen on the other end of the line asked for my father by name, and my mom, thinking it was probably a telemarketing call, answered quite curtly that he was deceased.  There was silence on the other end for a second and then the man said, “I am so sorry.  I didn’t know.”  It took him a few seconds to collect his thoughts and then he proceeded to tell my mom why he was calling.

“Your husband and I served in the Korean War together,” he said.  “I live in the western United States now and was traveling through the area on my way to Florida.  I was hoping to be able to just stop and have coffee with him again even though it has been years since we’ve been in touch.”  He and my mother talked a few minutes about Dad’s untimely death, then the man began to reminisce about his memories of my father.

“I’ve never forgotten him.  He was the most unique individual I’ve ever met.  There was no doubt that he was a strong Christian, but I never felt condemned around him—just strengthened.  While stationed in Korea, every time we would get a pass, we would go to the nearest town and do what most soldiers do—visit the clubs, find the dance floors, pick up women.  Your husband never did any of those things.  He would always find a restaurant or a place to shop and, knowing we might be too drunk to drive home, he would wait to make sure we didn’t get into trouble.  Then he would get us back in the car and sing hymns as he drove us all the way back to camp.  I’ve never forgotten the impact he had on me.  He made me want to be a Christian.  When I got home, he was the reason I found a church and gave my life to the Lord.”  

As I have read the Matthew passage about salt and light through the years, I have often thought of that story.  Nothing profound, nothing elaborate or extravagant. 

Just a simple man living out a simple principle.

My husband’s father passed away at the age of 41.  Although he had been ill for several years, he had never lost sight of the fact that his mission was to be salt and light.  After his death, my husband was cleaning out his father’s car and found a stack of 3 x 5 cards which had the names of people he was “caring for”—the clerk at the grocery store, a fellow patient at the kidney dialysis center, the neighbor down the street.  His illness and pain were extreme, but he innately understood that his mission went far beyond the physical condition of his body.  There were 35 cards in all. Those 35 plus the countless others who came before will testify in eternity about the point in life when their humanity encountered the everlasting. 

Just a simple man living out a simple principle.

When unpacking these verses of scripture, it is fascinating to delve into the properties of salt and the obvious parallels that Jesus was drawing with His words. 

Salt is a preservative, it is an irritant, it is necessary for flavor, and it creates thirst.  As Christians, we should be the same.  We should get out into the world we so abhor if we are going to slow down the rate of degeneration at all.  We must understand that Jesus called us salt, not sugar, and that although we would love to be that which sweetens every situation, in reality we may be the irritant that provokes healing.  As flavor-givers, we don’t have to dominate a circumstance in order to cause it to take on a different flavor.  And finally, just our very presence should create a thirst for God in those who do not know Him. 

The properties of light are also relatively obvious.  A little bit goes a long way.  Without light, there is only confusion, chaos, and darkness.  Light cheers and brightens, light guides one in the dark, and light reveals danger.  Again, the parallels between light and the Christian life are readily evident.  We are to brighten our world, our lives should be a guide to those around us, and we should always be alert to the deceptions of the enemy. 

What simple, profound examples these are.  It is interesting that Jesus only took up four verses presenting these essential principles to us.  He didn’t go into the details of what salt does or why it is vital to our lives.  He didn’t explain what light does or why we so desperately need it to survive.  He just said, “You’re the salt.  Don’t lose your flavor.  You’re the light.  Shine brightly in very public places.   Let it illuminate your good works.”   He then moved on to other things.

Jesus just introduced a simple principle which He plainly felt His listeners would comprehend the first time around.

So why have we made this so hard?

Salt and light infiltrate every element of the world’s existence.  These two components of life are found in every segment of society, in every third-world country and remote island, in every densely inhabited and remotely populated portion of the world.  Salt and light permeate the good, the pure, and the beautiful as well as the bad, the defiled, and the ugly.  Salt doesn’t attempt to keep its flavor or its potency by confining itself to the salt box.  Light understands that its greatest moments of responsibility come when the darkness is dense and complete. 

So why have we made this so hard?

Jesus didn’t entrust His mission to an assembly of educated, wealthy, talented people with multiple resources that could wow the world with the Word.  He just sat the faithful ones down and told them, “YOU are salt.  YOU are light.  Seep through every substance and crack.  Go where it’s decaying and help to preserve.  Help to heal even when it hurts.  Maintain your relationship with Me so that others will thirst for it.  Shine in every dark corner you find.  Work.  Work hard.  Because when they see your good works, they will know it’s Me, not you.”

So why have we made this so hard?

Is it because we have made the gospel a commodity, a product, goods that we feel we are here to sell to a corrupt and dark world?  Is it because we have become salesmen of the gospel instead of children of God?   Have we become salt shakers and candle holders instead of salt and light?  Salesmen can successfully sell their product without ever using it themselves.  Salt shakers are only inhibitors of salt.  Candleholders by themselves offer no light at all. Is it so complicated simply because we have tried to wrap God in an acceptable package which has totally hidden who He is?

Have we become salt shakers and candle holders
instead of salt and light?

Jesus said we were salt and light.  He didn’t say we were representatives of salt and light.  He didn’t say we were carriers of salt and light.  He knew His plan for humanity and knew that the only way for the world to know was to transform His children into His essence.

Salt and light are absolutely ineffective unless they are in the process of being used.  Unless we permeate our entire world which surrounds us—the good, the corrupt, the decaying, the bland—we are nothing more than a salt shaker.  Unless we let our essence that is Him shine in every corner of our lives and those around us, we are not light.  We are only a candle holder.

Teaching Home Bible studies, holding street meetings, singing in the choir, knocking on doors, and all the myriad ways we attempt to reach the world with His message are wonderful.  Everyone needs to be involved in an evangelistic endeavor with their local assembly.  But if we are truly salt and light, everyone we touch in our own personal world will be affected every single day.

Salt isn’t afraid of becoming corrupt—its inherent properties keep it from losing its form.  No other spices or properties can destroy salt’s savor.  Light knows that darkness can never overtake it.  Just one small flame can dispel the most oppressive obscurity.  Darkness can never overtake light.

When we are transformed into His essence, we are no longer just a salesman selling a great product.  When we constantly live in daily relationship with Him, we realize we are the salt and not the shaker.  When He is in charge, the light overcomes the darknss.  The candleholder may be destroyed by time or circumstances, but the light shines on and on.  Our works simply become byproducts of who we are and, in turn, He is glorified.

Jesus never intended for it to be complicated.

Just simple people living out simple principles. 

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