The Sermon on the Mount

Day 3: Believers are Salt and Light

Matthew 5:13-16, Isaiah 49:5-6, Luke 14:25-35, John 9:5, Colossians 4:2-6


If you are familiar with Southern cuisine you know that two ingredients make everything better: butter and salt. Literally every single food is improved by these divine gifts. They can even make kale edible—a miracle indeed. And did you know that a high sodium diet is biblical? Tell your doctors, gentlemen.

Okay, that’s not really true. Maybe it will be in the new earth one day, but not now. Salt is, however, a key ingredient in life, as prescribed by Scripture. It’s just a different sort of salt.

Jesus tells us that His followers are the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Paul tells us our speech should be “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). To confuse matters, we are also called to be “a light for the nations” (Isaiah 49:6). So followers of Jesus are to be salt and light, but what does that mean?

Salt makes bitter foods palatable, and it accents flavors that might otherwise be missed. It complements both sweet and spicy flavors, and makes “blah” foods enjoyable. And all of these indicate what Jesus asks of us too.

Through Jesus, we are to be the ones who help others find hope and joy in bitter circumstances. Through Jesus, we should be the kind of people who see the delightful things of the world—the sweet and the spicy—and add the salt of the gospel in just the right way as to complement and highlight God’s work and truth in them. And through Jesus, we should add life and flavor to the mundane and the blah.

Light is another metaphor for the same thing. God uses us to shine the hope of the gospel into darkness, to drive it away and show a way forward. We refract the light of Christ so people see the colors of His beauty. We bring an ambiance of Jesus into the dim and dull, to give comfort and peace.

This call comes with a warning, lest we decide to try to be salt and light in our own power. For if we do that we will lose our flavor and become dim. And what is flavorless salt but simply annoying grit to be swept up and thrown out? What is a burnt-out light bulb but glass garbage? Should we decide that we no longer need to be flavored with salt and be reflectors of Christ’s light, or should we decide that we can be these in our own strength, then we, too, will become spiritually useless.

Thankfully the One who calls us to be salt and light provides limitless flavor and brilliance. He is an infinitely perfect source. We simply share it and shine it forth into a world dying to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).

Written by Barnabas Piper