Being Salt and Light isn’t for you; It’s for your neighbor. Being Salt and Light to the stale, dead, darkened world is to let your fruit be enjoyed by others because the Fruit of the Spirit isn’t for you to enjoy but for others. Let’s read today’s text from Matthew 5:13-16.
“13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt has lost its flavor, with what will it be salted? It is then good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.14 You are the light of the world. A city located on a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do you light a lamp and put it under a measuring basket, but on a stand; and it shines to all who are in the house. 16 Even so, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”Matthew 5:13-16
Salt of the World
Jesus is addressing his disciples on their words and works. He starts by describing them as salt and tells them to watch that they do not lose their flavor, their preservation, their salvation. Here Jesus warns that they, and in in turn, all of the world, can be cast out and trodden under the feet of men.
It is best to start by mentioning that salt is a preservative. It was to be mixed with the grain offering (Lev 2:13) and it was also forbidden to forget the salt of preservation. This was to remind the Israelites that God would preserve them in His Gospel Promise to Abraham ultimately fulfilled in Christ.
“13 Every offering of your meal offering you shall season with salt. You shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your meal offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.”Leviticus 2:13
The salt is part of the sacrifice, the salt is therefore sacrificed. This points to Jesus who is the ultimate sacrifice. Through this covenant of faith we are also living sacrifices (Rom 12 1-2). We are to be salt to the world. In Rom 12: 9-21 we are shown what our Christan love and life should be and that passage parallels this sermon on the mount and especially this verse of being salt and light.
So, being the salt of the world means, if you are not willing to be sacrificed, to put to death the flesh and it’s passions (Col 3:5; Gal 5:24) then you will not be good for anything and will be tossed out and trod underfoot. This is to say if your confession of faith or your good works blend in with the world then you taste just like the world. If you believe as the world does, and act as the world acts, you are not set apart you are cast out. Ultimately, this was Jesus’ point. If you lose your salt, you cannot be preserved.
Thankfully, we have Christ, the salt of the covenant. The levitical priests ate a portion of the grain sacrifice, as all the grain sacrifices were to be seasoned with salt, they also partook of the salt of the covenant. The Levitical priests were nourished by these sacrifices. In this new covenant, in our Divine Service, Christ nourishes us with His body and blood, the sacrifice for our sins. Through the new covenant we are a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and we eat of His sacrifice, the Holy Eucharist, which strengthens, preserves, and sustains faith. In the same way all of the means of grace preserve and strengthen you to life everlasting.
Jesus, the salt of the convenant, preserves us through the Holy Spirits gift of faith and fruit of repentance. Christ is the Salt of the sacrifice. Our faith is preserved through Him given by the Holy Spirit through the means of grace; Word and Sacrament. When we attend the Divine Service, Morning Eucharist, Remember our baptism, read and meditate on the Word, we are with God and He is strengthening and preserving our faith. Our small and large Catechisms discuss our preservation in the faith by the Holy Spirit as we confess in the Apostles Creed.
“I believe in the Holy Ghost; one holy Christian Church, the communion of saints; the forgiveness of sins; the resurrection of the body; and the life everlasting. Yet, What does this mean? This means that I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life. This is most certainly true.”Small Catechism; Third Article of the Apostles Creed
“40] Learn, then, to understand this article most clearly. If you are asked: What do you mean by the words: I believe in the Holy Ghost? you can answer: I believe that the Holy Ghost makes me holy, as His name implies. 41] But whereby does He accomplish this, or what are His method and means to this end? Answer: By the Christian Church, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. 42] For, in the first place, He has a peculiar congregation in the world, which is the mother that begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God, which He reveals and preaches, [and through which] He illumines and enkindles hearts, that they understand, accept it, cling to it, and persevere in it.”Large Catechism; Third Article of the Apostles Creed
“God warns us against defection through the Law in order that we may beware of carnal security, which destroys the certainty of salvation, and cling to the Gospel, which bestows and nourishes the assurance of salvation. The precious Gospel truth concerning the certainty of the believer’s salvation does not engender spiritual pride, but fosters true humility and suppresses the carnal security of the flesh. Also with the growth of the believer’s certainty of salvation his gratitude toward God and his zeal in good works increase, and these are divine blessings which both despair and carnal security destroy. Since it has pleased God to bestow His grace upon men by the means of grace, it is self-evident that the believer will persevere in faith only if he faithfully uses the divine means of grace (the Word and the Sacraments). Christians who desire to remain steadfast in their faith and sure of their salvation must therefore continually dwell in the sanctuary of sanctuaries, the divine Word, where God offers and imparts to them constant grace and strength for abiding with Christ in true faith, Rom. 1, 16 ; 10, 17 ; John 8, 31. 32. 51.”Mueller’s Christian Dogmatics;The Doctrine of Perseverance
Light of the World
This passage of light is explained in the final verse, vs 16. Being the light of the world is to show the world our works. Not that our works make a Christian but a Christian is never without works. The world has its own works that can be done for their own reasons, but they are never with faith. Anything not of faith is a sin (Rom. 14:23). True good works are done out of faith. They are the fruit that the Spirit works in us. Faith and the Spirit cannot be separated.
The light then is the new life we have as Christians through faith. Through this new spiritual life we do good works that makes the world marvel. As we don’t do good works to earn heaven, we don’t do good works to benefit ourselves, we don’t do good works for anything we might gain. We do good works at our own expense even if it means death. This is love. The world tries to counterfeit it, the world confuses it with lust, passion, a good feeling, yet the world doesn’t truly have it apart from Christ.
As Christan’s who have received the Light in a darkened world, we cannot hide that light, it is impossible if one were to be a Christian to be without works. Works automatically flow from a cheerful heart who has been redeemed by Christ. We see the world as people in need who need love. Everything a Christian has is from God and this means that we can share our money, possessions, time, and works with others because God doesn’t need our works, and He richly supplies our daily bread, and He supplies the Spirit to us through the Gospel so that we actually want and desire to help everyone and to be light in the world.
“Nothing gives such pleasure to God as the conversion and salvation of human beings, for whom his every word and every revelation exist. He wants you to become a living force for all humanity, lights shining in the world. You are to be radiant lights as you stand beside Christ, the great light, bathed in the glory of him who is the light of heaven. You are to enjoy more and more the pure and dazzling light of the Trinity, as now you have received—though not in its fullness—a ray of its splendor, proceeding from the one God, in Christ Jesus our Lord, to whom be glory and power forever and ever.”St. Gregory of Nazianzus
Salt and Light; Fruit of the Spirit
The Spirit grows fruit, and He doesn’t grow fruit for your own benefit. The tree cannot eat its own fruit. It bears fruit for others to enjoy. Your love for your neighbor is not for your benefit, it is not for you to feel and look “super holy” it is for your neighbor. This is where much of American Christianity gets wrong. They see the fruit of a changed life as something that is meant for them to enjoy, as if Christianity were a self help program or a false religion based on progressing the ladder of holiness in this life for myself. No, God gives you good fruit, good works, not for your self satisfaction and self justification, but because your neighbor needs them. The world is a large place and your light has a lot to shine on.
“I am of opinion, indeed, that here one will find his hands full, [and will have enough] to do to observe these, namely, meekness, patience, and love towards enemies, chastity, kindness, etc., and what such virtues imply. But such works are not of value and make no display in the eyes of the world; for they are not peculiar and conceited works, and restricted to particular times, places, rites, and customs, but are common, every-day domestic works which one neighbor can practise toward another; therefore they are not of high esteem.”Large Catechism
Your light is not so people can think of how great you are, as if you were the Creator of the light. Your light is to not only give the love of Christ, but the Word of Christ. So often I’ve heard such silliness as “preach the gospel and if you have to use words“. As if being nice to someone or paying their rent somehow is the same as Christ crucified for you. Somewhere in your good deeds, if it isn’t brought up by the other person, your light will speak of God. Light cannot help but to shine, Salt cannot help but to add taste and to preserve. Your Confession of the faith will flow out of your mouth.
In many ways this will happen, yet it is marvelous when it does. Especially when it goes wrong. This is where Evangelicalism leaves you. They only talk about the positive aspects but never when it goes terribly wrong. What about when they reject your message, they want nothing of that, they want you to shut up about it, what if they claim it’s “hate speech” or some other form of “violence“?
When you offer to love them anyways and give them even more. When they see that it’s not a sales call where your deeds are to get some sort of conversion. When they see that you are still there offering them whatever they need and more after they have insulted you, hurt you, emotionally or phsycially, they marvel at why on Earth you would still be there.
Christian persecution comes in many ways. We are not told to turn off your light or hide it under a basket when it comes. We are told to let it shine. We are told to be salt and light. This is difficult at times but what is helpful is realizing that you are not trying to be salt and light, that you are salt and light. God doesn’t tell you to do something without supplying the means to do it. Through the Word and Sacrament,we have the Spirit, who grows fruit of repentance inside of us, and this fruit grows to be shared by the people you meet in a darkened world with rotting fruit. Fruit grown, from His light, and preserved by His salt; through Word and Sacrament.
We often don’t do what we are supposed to, we often leave things undone, we often do things contrary to the God’s Word. We fail to love others as Christ loves us. Yet, for His sake, we are forgiven. Through His Sacrifice of Himself on the cross, through His atonement for our sins, we are forgiven. His love is the greatest love in the world, His light is the brightest light in the world, and His salt preserves you in the one true faith (1 Pet. 1:5). May the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. With your sins forgiven, you are free, go in peace.