“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 nything 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.” (Matt. 5:13-16)
The verses we contemplate this week remind us, the church, that we must constantly be considering our place in the world, and our attitude towards it and its values and institutions. We must always avail ourselves of the wisdom of God so that our values, words and opinions are shaped by His heart and not by the world. For daily we are exposed to those people, groups causes and organizations whose world views are antithetical to the Kingdom of God. The values of the Kingdom of God are foolishness to our world, steeped as it is in sin and selfishness.
Jesus uses salt and light to illustrate the role that we, as citizens of the kingdom of God, are to play in the world. Salt is an essential household seasoning that makes food tastier. Prior to the 20th Century salt was the primary means by which food could be preserved so it would keep for long periods of time without decay. It still is used for this purpose today, although it has generally been replaced by refrigeration or chemicals.
In ancient times without salt a piece of meat would rot quickly and become nothing but useless garbage. Because of sin, the world, like that meat, is subject to decay and corruption. We, the disciples of Jesus, are the salt which the Lord uses to hinder this decay. Now of course the Lord has placed several institutions in the world that do this to some extent. He has authorized governments to restrain selfishness and prevent anarchy. He has created marriage and the family as the basic building blocks of society in order to raise and properly educate children and instill within them love of God and respect for their fellow man.
Yet such institutions consistently fail for all become corrupt and useless. Law and government only affect external behavior by restraining and punishing outward sins. They cannot change people’s attitudes about racism and intolerance. Society can educate the next generation to think differently yet children and young adults still demonstrate disrespect and violence. Government can do nothing about this corruption except spend money on studies and programs that they think will help but in the long run, these cannot transform inner attitudes of selfishness and immorality into the beatitudes of meekness, compassion, altruism and love. The Lord has created the church and placed her in the world as salt to stop the decay. We have been redeemed from sin and have been made righteous. We are to use our righteousness to penetrate the world, its governments, society and all of its institutions. We are to influence and
exhort people by our words and deeds to exhibit the righteousness and compassion of Christ.