Read: Matthew 5:13-16
This week, we will be taking a deeper look at what it means to be salt, light, a city on a hill, and other ways that the Bible describes Christians in the world. These metaphors are all very useful as we try to navigate what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a culture where many others are not.
These verses in Matthew are part of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, and they come just after Jesus has given the Beatitudes–a list of blessings and rewards for acting counter to the world. Jesus is inviting his followers into a totally new way of living, a completely new way of being in the world. It would have been really radical to those people gathered together, listening to his sermon. And, over 2,000 years later, it is still really radical to those of us who read his words today.
So, Jesus follows his bold statements with a reminder of how his followers should positively impact the world. In Jesus’ time, salt would have been used to preserve meat. Covering meat in salt kept it from rotting. Like salt, we should preserve. We should prevent decay. Jesus also notes that if salt loses its saltiness, it should be thrown out, since it no longer has any use. What a warning to us!
Reflect: How am I doing at this? Am I a person who preserves the good and the worth around me? Or have I lost my saltiness? Where can I be salt today?
Pray: God, help me to be a person that preserves the good around me. Help me to not lose my saltiness. Amen.
Read: Isaiah 58:1-9
Poor Isaiah. It must have been tough to be a prophet. God’s people are returning from exile, and Isaiah is tasked with teaching the people how to follow God. God is concerned with the character of his people. So, in the passage we read for today, Isaiah is reminding the people that their behavior matters. How they treat the oppressed matters. God’s people have failed to be righteous. Isaiah reminds them that their fasting doesn’t matter if they are ignoring God’s commands and mistreating others.
However, Isaiah goes on to remind the people that if they do what is right, if they treat others with mercy and justice, their “light will break forth like the dawn.” Our passage from yesterday reminds us, “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
When we live the way that God wants us to live, we are a light to the world. We cannot hide our light; instead, we display it to others. We should shine, and we shouldn’t try to hide it. Instead, we use our light to illuminate all of the dark spaces around us. Our passage in Matthew 5 reminds us that when we shine, the result is that God is praised.
Reflect: How am I a light in my community? What is one way I can “shine” this week?
Pray: God, you teach us to be a light on a hill, a light in the darkness. I’m supposed to light up the world, but sometimes I try to hide. Help me to find “dark spots” to light up this week. Amen.
Read: Matthew 5:13-16
Jerusalem was a city on a hill. It was prominent. It could be seen. It was an example. So, it’s no wonder that Jesus called his people a city on a hill. “A town on a hill cannot be hidden.” Like it or not, people will look to us to set a standard.
When we follow Jesus, we are visible. People know that we are supposed to act in a different way. And you can be sure that they will look to you to make sure your behavior is consistent with the faith you claim. Christians are often accused of being hypocrites, of not actually following what we claim to follow. There may be some truth in this.
If we are living to Jesus’ standard, we can’t just blend in with everyone else. We might not always feel like being a city on a hill, but that is the standard to which we are called.
Reflect: Am I a person of integrity? Are my beliefs and behavior consistent?
Pray: God, help me to live a life that is consistent. Help me to be a person of integrity. Amen.
Read: John 1:6-9, 12:35; Isaiah 49:6
John 1:9 teaches us that Jesus is the light of the world. He is the true light that brings light to everyone. John the Baptist was sent not as the light itself, but as a witness to that light. Like John, we are witnesses. Jesus’ light illuminates everything. It makes everything clear. And we get the privilege of spreading that light around.
Have you ever experienced an unexpected power outage? One moment you are surrounded by light and the next moment you are fumbling around for a flashlight or a phone. This is what it is like to live without Jesus. John 12:35 reminds us that the world around us needs the light of Jesus; otherwise, people are wandering in the dark. They don’t know where they are going. When we are light to others, we are sharing the light of Jesus; we are pointing people to the true light. We are giving people illumination for their pathway. This can be a daunting task, but just as it would be natural to share a flashlight in the dark, this is how we share Jesus’ light to those without him.
The Old Testament uses phrases like “light of the nations” to describe God’s people. We are the lights of our neighborhood, the lights of our workplaces, the lights in our family. Don’t keep your light to yourself. Spread it around!
Reflect: Who do I know that needs to hear about the light of Jesus?
Pray: God, sometimes it is really uncomfortable or awkward to tell others about you. Help me to find the courage and the words to share your light. Amen.
Encouragement for Our Calling
Does this all feel daunting? Is it overwhelming to think of yourself as salt, light, a city on a hill? Consider these words from Dallas Willard:
Speaking to these common people, “the multitudes,” who through him had found blessing in the kingdom, Jesus tells them it is they, not the “best and brightest” on the human scale, who are to make life on earth manageable as they live from the kingdom (Matt. 5:13-16). God gives them “light”—truth, love, and power—that they might be the light for their surroundings. He makes them “salt,” to cleanse, preserve, and flavor the times through which they live.
The “little” people, without any of the character or qualifications humans insist are necessary, are the only ones who can actually make the world work. It is how things are among them that determines the character of every age and place. And God gives them a certain radiance, as one lights a lamp to shed its brilliance over everyone in the house. Just so, Jesus says to those he has touched, “Let your light glow around people in such a way that, seeing your good works, they will exalt your Father in the heavens” (Matthew 5:16).
Pray: God, thank you for making me one of the multitudes who follows you in a life of quiet and faithful obedience. Give me your light so that I can make the world a better place. Amen.
- Songs We Sing
Other Messages in Series