SALT OF THE EARTH AND LIGHT OF THE WORLD [MATTHEW 5:13-16]
WHAT did Jesus mean when He said to His disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. …… You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13,14)? On the themes of Matthew’s Gospel is the inbreaking of the Kingdom of God. In calling the disciples salt and light, Jesus stressed the fact that as His followers they had the responsibility to act as agents of the Kingdom to represent to the world the truth that salvation had come.
Jesus could have been referring to many characteristics of salt when He called His disciples “the salt of the earth.” Salt preserves, purifies, and seasons. In using the metaphor of salt, Jesus was probably relying on all these images to teach that just as salt is vital for daily life, so too are the disciples vital to the world in their witness to God. Jesus said that if salt loses its taste, it becomes worthless. In essence, Jesus was teaching that if the disciples did not make an impact for the Kingdom on the world around them, they would have lost the very essence of their being as disciples.
Jesus also called believers “the light of the world.” Light is seen as a revelation or inbreaking of the Kingdom (Matthew 4:16). The nature of light is to illumine or make apparent, and the challenge to the disciples was to make their testimony to the Kingdom clearly evident. They were to be a city on a hill for all to see, not hidden like a light placed under a basket.
Jesus encouraged the disciples to let their light shine and be seen as a living manifestation of the Kingdom of God. This call to shine did not involve drawing attention to themselves as individuals. Jesus, in fact, warned against practicing acts of piety in order to be seen by others (Matthew 6:1). Rather, His words were meant to call attention to the presence of the Kingdom in our midst, bringing glory to the Father.
As heirs to the Kingdom in our own time, we have the same responsibility. In His love for us, God has called us to participate in the advancement of His Kingdom, to be salt and light to the world.
Jakarta, 10 June 2014
A Christian Pilgrim