Our Lord uses as illustrations some of the most conspicuous things known to humanity: salt, light, and a city set on a hill. He says, essentially, “Be like that in your home, your business, your church. Be a conspicuous Christian, ready for either ridicule or respect depending upon the people you are with.”
Concentrated Service • matthew 5:13
Not consecrated service, but concentrated. Consecration (our dedication) would soon become sanctification (holiness) if we would only concentrate on what God wants.
Concentration means pinning down the four corners of the mind until it is settled on what God wants. The literal interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount is child’s play; its interpretation by the Holy Spirit is the hard work of a saint, and it requires spiritual concentration.
“You are the salt of the earth.” Some teachers today seem to think our Lord said, “You are the sugar of the earth,” meaning the ideal of the Christian is gentleness and winsomeness without any curative discomfort. But our Lord’s illustration of a Christian is salt, one of the most concentrated things we know, something that preserves wholesomeness and prevents decay.
It is a disadvantage to be salt. Think of the action of salt on a wound, and you will realize this. If you get salt into a wound, it hurts—and when God’s children are among those who are “raw” toward God, their presence causes discomfort.
The man who is wrong with God is like an open wound, and when “salt” gets into him, it causes annoyance and distress—he becomes spiteful and bitter. The disciples of Jesus today preserve society from corruption; the “salt” of their presence causes irritation, which leads to their persecution.
How are we to maintain the healthy, salty tang of saintliness? By keeping our right relationship to God through Jesus Christ. In this present age, Jesus says, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation. . . . For, indeed, the kingdom of God is within you” (luke 17:20–21). Christians are called to live out Jesus’s teaching in a culture that will not recognize Him, and that spells resistance and very often persecution.
Conspicuous Setting • matthew 5:14–16
The illustrations our Lord uses are all conspicuous: salt, light, and a city on a hill. There is no possibility of mistaking them. To preserve something from corruption, salt has to be placed in the midst of it. Before it can do its work, it causes excessive irritation—which leads to persecution. Light attracts moths and bats, and points out the way for burglars as well as honest people. A city is a gathering place for all the human driftwood that will not work for its own living, and a Christian will have any number of parasites and ungrateful hangers-on. Jesus would have us remember that other people will certainly defraud us. These considerations form a powerful temptation: we may want to pretend we are not salt, to put our light under a bushel basket, and to cover our city with a fog. But Jesus allows nothing in the nature of covert discipleship.
“You are the light of the world.” Light cannot be soiled; you may reach for a beam of light with the dirtiest hand, but you leave no mark on it. A sunbeam may shine into the filthiest home in the slum of a city, but it will not be soiled.
Merely moral people may be soiled in spite of their integrity, but those who are made pure by the Holy Spirit cannot be soiled—they are as light.
Are we the salt of the earth? Are we the light of the world? Are we allowing God to exhibit in our lives the truth of these startling statements of Jesus Christ?