Salt & Light: Glorifying God in our Culture

Matthew 5:12-14 - “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.”

This school year, one of the privileges God has provided me with is the opportunity to teach some high school level classes within our local home-school co-op. Our group has several hundred participants, and weekly I spend time with approx. 30 teenagers. Last semester the classroom I use was remodeled, and on the wall there are two large pieces of art summarize these verses. “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world”. Visual reminders to anyone using the class of this paragraph from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. There are a few things that stand out from the metaphors Jesus used to describe those who belong to his kingdom:

1. Every Christian is called to influence their culture for God! 

“You are the salt of the earth…you are the light of the world…”

2. The primary way a Christian influences culture is by a changed life.

“…that they may see your good works…” 

3. The goal of every Christian’s influence is to bring glory to God. 

“…and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” 

4. Every changed life provides a chance to share the gospel, the good news of a life redeemed by Christ! 

“A city set on a hill cannot be hidden”

Salt and light were common household objects. Even the most humble 1st century home had these two things. As Paul Earnhart wrote in An Invitation to a Spiritual Revolution, “Not a house in Palestine was without some salt, or a lamp to chase away the evening gloom.” So Jesus certainly used objects that every person can relate to. Even today, what home doesn’t have a box of Morton’s salt or some matches, a lighter or a candle? Maybe an even more fitting modern equivalent would be a lightbulb.

However, besides using objects that were common, Jesus used objects that have an effect on the things around them. Salt is used to preserve what it comes into contact with, and was primarily used that way in the first century to preserve food. Light was used to illuminate the space in which it was placed. Jesus intensified the metaphor from a simple household lamp, to the high visibility of a city on a hill. (This passage took on new significance for me during visits to Tiberias on the Western shore of the Sea of Galilee, and I watched at dusk as lights began dotting the hills across the lake.)

Watching the sunset over the Sea of Galilee in Tiberius. © Appian Media

This is the process that has the power to change a culture. When individuals who have been reconciled to God through Christ begin taking on the morals and character of their Lord, and explain to those within their personal spheres of influence about the gospel, that’s when we are being the spiritual preservative and illumination that God has called us to be!

If you're a disciple trying to shine your light brighter within your circle of influence and you're looking for tools to help you tell the story of Jesus, then I would encourage you to check out Appian Media. Last year some friends and I began a media company with the goal of creating content that help Bible students become more familiar with the people, places and events of the Bible (see my post from last March)! Just this January we launched the first 5 episodes of Following the Messiah and made them available for you to watch and share with others for free. There is also an online media library where you can access and use media of the Bible lands like the video posted above to help you see and teach Biblical concepts more clearly. We are currently in the beginning of 30 days of fundraising for our production schedule for 2017 so we can complete the final 5 episodes of Following the Messiah and add even more content to the online gallery! If you find resources like this helpful to shining your light using the gospel and engaging the culture, then please pray for us, spread the word on social media and with your friends, and consider donating to work with us to produce tools that help you glorify God in the culture!

Your friend,