The Goal of Salt and Light: Matthew 5:13-37

Focus Passage: Matthew 5:13-37 (NIV)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 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. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.

21 “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ 22 But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.

23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift.

25 “Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. 26 Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.

31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

33 “Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.’ 34 But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. 36 And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. 37 All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.

Read Matthew 5:13-37 in context and/or in other translations on!

In our passage for this post, it opens by sharing two metaphors for how we are to live in the world. These two ideas are so well known within Christianity that they have almost become meaningless clichés, but even while they have lost much of their impact, they are still challenging to us when we look closer at them.

The first idea is Jesus calling His followers “the salt of the earth” in the opening of verse 13. He is quick to point us to salt’s function – be salty – because if salt looses that which makes it salt, it is no better than dirt or sand. In the same way, if Christians lose the core of who we are, we become just as useless as “unsalty” salt.

The flip side of this first idea is that when we are salty, we blend into just about everything, but we change it and make it different. With salt as the metaphor, Christians should not fear going into any situation and in any situation Christians are in, there should be a clear distinctiveness to their actions that improves and uplifts those around them.

The second idea is that Jesus calls His followers “the light of the world” in the first part of verse 15. This stands in partial contrast to Jesus Himself being the True Light. Calling a Christian or group of Christians “a light” might seem as though we are pulling the spotlight away from Jesus, who is the Light who came into the world, but Jesus started it by drawing this type of attention onto His followers.

The purpose of a light is to not hide, but to be visible and easy to see – just like a city on a hill. As Christians, we should not fear showing our “Christianity” to others. Using this metaphor, some people may prefer darkness and will dislike the Christian light, but others will like it and be drawn to it.

The key goal of being salt or light is found right as Jesus begins to transition to a different topic. He closes out this portion of His message by saying, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (v. 16)

The goal of being salty or filled with light is not to draw attention to ourselves, but to bring glory to God. It is to display good deeds that point people towards our Father in heaven. This means that all of us Christians are called to be “lesser lights” that point others to the One true “Greater Light”!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus “Reflective Bible Study” package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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