“Your light must shine before others”

In Matthew 5:13-16, Jesus speaks of salt and a city and light, an interesting mixture of allusions. But they are all united in one point, which is our role as Christians.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned?
It is no longer good for anything
but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
You are the light of the world.
A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket;
it is set on a lampstand,
where it gives light to all in the house.
Just so, your light must shine before others,
that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your heavenly Father.”

Jesus uses a couple of allusions in his parable from the Gospel of Matthew. One is salt, a very common but powerful spice. The other light, a common but very powerful way to dispel darkness. Both He uses to explore the role of His disciples take in shaping His mission to save mankind.

On the one hand, Jesus says that His disciples – us, really – are the salt of the earth. We stand out among others like salt stands out when applied to food. It gives flavor and often it keeps food from going bad. But what happens when salt gets old or stale? What happens when we lose our fervor in faith or Christ-based actions? In His allusion, salt is trampled under good or thrown out. It is of no use. Outside of the allusion, Christ’s work goes undone.

“A city on a mountain cannot be hidden.” What does that mean? In this allusion, Christ’s mission and our work for Him cannot go undone. If we are weak or lose direction, it must continue. We must be driven by God’s love and find anew our love of Him.

So, then, the allusion to light. Light doesn’t just illuminate. It also brightens and warms and welcomes. And when we light a lamp we set it on a light stand — we “put it out there” to be seen, to be found, to be welcomed by. And Jesus says that we must be a light before others, a bright, warm, welcoming disciple of Christ who by our works give glory to our heavenly Father, if not by our words certainly by our good deeds.

Are you salt or are you light? Do you shine or do you hide?

Some see this passage as a call to proselytize. I see it as a call to be more Christ like, to humble ourselves in service to others with a warm heart and a glad smile, the light shining from our countenance. That we are to gladly love others as God loves us and so to glorify God by that love.


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