Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Salt was a bountiful resource in Israel, due to the Dead Sea. Most of it was pristine quality. However, sometimes there was simply “saltless salt” that had no flavor and was more like gravel; this latter kind was then only useful for being traction on slick surfaces during the rainy winter months. This thought of being tread underfoot, carried with it a shamefulness. It was supposed to bring great flavor to food, and was vital for preserving food during the winter months. Thus, “saltless salt” was devoid of the very thing it was useful for, and the only thing it could be used for is shamefulness of being trampled. Salt is able to permeate the flavor of the whole dish, but saltless salt is hopeless. There’s no way to infuse salt with “salt-flavor”.
Jesus intends his disciples to go out into the world and change the world by their presence.The positive lesson is that Jesus intends his disciples to go out into the world and change the world by their presence. Meat without being salted will quickly rot; however, meat that has been salted is entirely changed and is preserved. You don’t need a lot of salt to affect change in a whole dish. Once mixed into a dish, salt is an unstoppable force flavoring agent.
The negative warning is that if we claim to be followers of Jesus, but lack the very character which he describes we ought to have (changing the world with the good news of His kingdom), we are useless salt. We are shameful. We are no good for anything but being trampled by every passer-by. Notice that Jesus uses the idea of being a shame to motivate his hearers to be an active and unstoppable force in the world.
This world is described in the Old Testament (Isa. 60:2) as being “in darkness”. The coming of Jesus, is described in terms of the sun dawning. But here Jesus tells his disciples that they are the light of the world. Meaning, they are receiving the light which he brings in order to go into the darkest corners and bring the light with them.
Jesus came to establish his kingdom in this world, the reference to “a city on a hill” carries with it a reminder that the church is a heavenly city. This kingdom of light which he was establishing was to be unmistakeable. A city atop a hill is evident to the entire surrounding countryside.
After the sun set in ancient times, there wasn’t the “light-pollution” of our modern electrical cities. So, interaction in a home after nightfall was entirely dependent on however many oil lamps the family could afford. The lamps in those one-room dwellings was usually placed on a special shelf that it might be unmistakeable. If it was smothered under a basket, you might not know it was there, but if it was brightly burning above you, you would most certainly be aware of its presence.
For Jesus, good works are not an end in themselves, they are intended to be subordinate to the ultimate aim of glorify God.Jesus tells his disciples that by shining their lights–whose source was in Him–there are two goals in view: that men may see the good works of Christians, and that men would glorify the Father. For Jesus, good works are not an end in themselves, they are intended to be subordinate to the ultimate aim of glorify God.
Better Than Advice
These words are given directly to Jesus’ disciples who had gathered to hear him preach and teach. Thus, when he says “You are”, he intends those who are his followers, his disciples, those who will hear and obey his word. This is a word for Christians. Jesus doesn’t simply represent a man who taught nice moral lessons, rather this “Sermon on the Mount” is permeated with symbolism that should make us think of Moses on Mt. Sinai, bringing God’s law to his people. In this way, Jesus is acting as a new lawgiver, an authority to be obeyed, not simply advice to be taken.
The end He has in view is that His disciples would go out into the world and that by their good work of Gospel living & proclamation, the dark and unsalted corners of the world would be brought into the Kingdom of God. In the nations being brought to glorify God, they are then displaying what the chief end of mankind is: to glorify God & enjoy Him forever. In sum, the command Jesus gives to His disciples is that they would be as unstoppable as salt (changing the flavor of the world), and as unmistakeable as light (bringing those in darkness to see and then glorify God).