“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”Matthew 5:13–16 ESV
We don’t always immediately understand the things Jesus said.
There. We said it.
And this seemingly random pairing of elements is no exception.
So why the two things—salt and light? Well, both serve a singular primary purpose. Salt serves the purpose of taste. Interesting only to those who like science (which we don’t, but whatever), salt is an extremely stable compound and doesn’t actually lose its saltiness. Salt is always salt. That is, unless it’s immersed in and diluted with a large amount of water. And light serves the primary purpose of seeing. The unaided human eye can detect a light source as small as the flame of a candle from up to one and one-half miles away (more science). Which means light is extremely difficult to hide the brighter it is—unless it’s covered or snuffed out entirely.
All that is to say that when salt has no taste and light can’t be seen, they are worthless.
Jesus said His followers are to be salt and light, but more on that in a sec because that’s not all He said. In Matthew 5, Jesus was preaching a longer sermon that included an important preamble to His analogy of salt and light:
“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth”Matthew 5:11–13 ESV
In context, it’s our response to the awfulness of other people that is supposed to emulate the qualities of salt and light. We’re supposed to be different. Flavorful. Light-giving. Instead of responding in kind, we’re supposed to be kind. More than that, we’re supposed to count ourselves blessed, to rejoice, and to be glad—because when we’re mistreated for our faith, it means we’re not hiding it under a proverbial basket. The prophets didn’t hide their faith; they were outspoken and faith-filled and willing to follow God in less than ideal circumstances. Their words and deeds were flavorful and counter to the culture. They shone their light for all to see, which meant mistreatment came with the territory.
Being kind, joyful, and peace-filled because we’re heaven bound is absolutely counter-culture. The typical response to insults and persecution is to hurl them back, to look out for #1, to demand respect and never settle for second best, to get defensive or pouty, to “speak our truth” especially when we sit behind a keyboard saying things we’d never say to someone’s face. Just as salt’s flavor is diluted by water, our faith and resolve to live by it is diluted by the world we live in.
But as followers of Jesus, we’re supposed to be different in all the wonderful ways He was different. His words were humble, interesting, substantial, and timelessly true. Two thousand years later, they haven’t lost their flavor. And His qualities still shine like the sun. People are drawn to Him just like we’re drawn out of darkness by light. He loved people, He prayed for those who persecuted Him, and He ultimately died for the very people who mistreated Him. He was joy-filled because He knew what lay beyond the moment.
And we can be like Him.
Ask God to reveal the ways you’ve been behaving more like the culture you live in than like Jesus, allowing your effectiveness for Him to be diluted and your hope hidden. Ask Him to give you the wisdom and resolve to be saltier and more light-giving.
- In what ways have you allowed yourself to become less salty? In what ways have you hidden your light under a basket?
- Sometimes Christians mistake “saltiness” for being harsh. But Jesus linked being salty to responding in joy and love. In your own words, explain why.
- Can you think of one way or one specific person to whom you can be flavorful and light-giving today?
For more devotional content like the above, read The Chosen: Book Two, a 40-day devotional inspired by The Chosen, the first multi-season original series about the life of Christ. The Chosen: Book Two features forty brand-new devotions that each contain Scripture, a unique look into a Gospel story, suggestions for prayer, and questions that lead you further in your relationship with Christ.
See Jesus through the eyes of those who knew him best and explore the backstories of people like Simon the Zealot, Philip the Apostle, and the Samaritans.