Be Disciples for Others
“You are the salt of the earth…” Jesus tells His disciples. Then, He continues, “You are the light of the world…” Rhetorically, this is mixing metaphors, and most of the time, English teachers advise against it. So, why is Jesus – who is quite a good speaker – combining these two different images in the same lesson? Wouldn’t it be more effective to focus on the salt here and then save the “light of the world” part for another day?
Well, I think they go together here because both salt and light share something in common that Jesus wants to highlight for us. Salt is an ancient mineral – used by humans for millennia. It not only can flavor food and bring out the natural tastes of various things, but it also is used to preserve food from going bad. Light is, in a sense, the first element of creation. When God created “in the beginning,” the first thing He says is “Let there be light,” and “there was light.” This light made everything else possible and, best of all, visible.
What these two images share in common is that both salt and light do not simply exist in and for themselves. They are naturally meant to serve others. Without salt – particularly in the world without refrigeration – food would go bad and people would become sick, or starve, or die. Without light, we would not be able to see, would not be able to know one another in the fullest sense. There is a reason people are afraid of the dark.
Just so, Jesus is telling His disciples, we do not simply exist to make our way in the world focused merely on ourselves and our own pursuits. As disciples, we exist for others. You and I are the salt of the earth; we are the light of the world. As He continues teaching, Jesus makes His point even more clear: “Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
In other words, our lives are not about us. Instead, they are about missionary discipleship – faithful following of Christ so that we bring others to know, love, and serve God too. We are not looking for attention; we are looking to bring attention to God. When food is lacking salt, you know it’s missing; when a room is without light, you know you are in the dark. However, when they are present, we don’t say, “Boy! The salt in this soup is just fantastic!” Rather, we recognize the goodness of the entire dish.
This is what we are called to be – to flavor and enlighten our world so that the entire society is better – so that everyone who sees our community realizes how wonderful God is and how He is at work here and now.