“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.
You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16
The twin metaphors of salt and light are used to show the effect God’s people are meant to have on the world. As we live in the world, we are meant to impact and influence the people and situations around us.
Salt was main used as a preservative to slow down decay. Its meaning in this text is that God’s people were meant to preserve the world from decay by impacting and influencing it. On the other hand, light illumines and is meant to illumine; light cannot be hidden, and it should not be hidden! God’s people are meant to bear an illuminative effect on our worlds, to bring light to dark situations and people who need that light.
Putting them together, we begin to see how salt and light aren’t two separate metaphors but really one single metaphor. Just like two sides on a coin, the people of God are meant to be both salt and light in the world. On the one hand, we play a preservative function by prevent decay in the world in the midst of moral decline and flagging ethics. On the other hand, God’s desire to restore the world is achieve through us as his light bearers in the world! We are meant to teach and model what is right, good and true so that the world may come and see and give glory to God.
But how do we go forth as salt and light? I suggest to us that this segment must be read in context of the preceding verses, Matthew 5:3-11 which are the Beatitudes. These are the ideals of kingdom living, values and principles that Jesus teaches. As God’s people, we are to season and bring light – prevent decay and bring illumination – by living out God’s kingdom values and principles in the world.
May this text remind us to be God’s salt and light in the world! May it remind us to live rightly according to God’s kingdom values and principle!
Rev. Dr Jeremy-Joe Tan