You Are The Salt Of The Earth, The Lights Of The World

June 21, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Matthew 5:13-16

The Declaration From Christ

1. "You are the salt of the earth." "You are the lights of the world." [The "you" is plural in both cases.] These are statements from Jesus which were just read out loud shortly ago. These are the words the Lord has given to us as we gather [in the presence of] Christ for this week. It is a declaration. It is not a message of exhortation. Nor is it a command. He does not say, "Be the salt of the earth! Be the light of the world!" Jesus makes a declaration by his own authority: "You are the salt of the earth." "You are the lights of the world."

2. People don't add salt to a pot for no reason, without any purpose. Whenever they do add salt, they do it with some kind of reason, for example, either to add flavor or to prevent spoiling. People don't turn on a light for no reason, without any purpose. They turn a light on, for example, to give light to a room. Thus, when Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the lights of the world," one thing that becomes clear by what he said is the kind of people we are, that we are never some meaningless purposeless beings. God has a plan and a purpose in putting us here on this earth. With a purpose God released us onto this earth as the salt of the earth. With a purpose God turned us on as "lights of the world" in society.

3. What might his purpose be? Whenever salt is released into a pot, a change is clearly produced in it. The flavor will change. Whenever one puts a rather large amount of salt in, it becomes more difficult for the contents to spoil. When you turn a light on, the change of a room becoming lit is produced. Thus, when Jesus says, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the lights of the world," the significance of our existence lies in that it will bring change on this earth and to society. For that matter then, in order to change the world, God has released the salt of the earth and turned on the lights.

4. Well, what do you think? Of these words of Jesus. Can you say, "Amen! He said it right," with regard to the statements of "You are the salt of the earth. You are the lights of the world?" When we are willing to accept the words of Jesus with complete honesty, a thought will inevitably come to us. We'll wonder, "[The Lord] says, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the lights of the world," however, do we ask [ourselves] how in the world, how much can we really do in 'the earth' and in 'society'?"

5. However, we mustn't forget that these words were not spoken to the council members of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, but were spoken to the disciples who were living in a world that had nothing at all to do with the influential and the social clout back then. Also, we mustn't forget that the church across the generations has heard these words, in particular, the church which has been in situations like that of the leaves of a tree being rocked by the storms of persecution, has heard and accepted these words from the Lord. And now the words of Jesus are being read and heard in this church.

6. If Christ is focusing his attention on humanly produced strength and on the ability and the influence people have right now and says, "You are the salt of the earth. You are the lights of the world," I don't think that the Lord would have chosen this place. [Then] he would have definitely said it while going to an assembly of persons with a great deal of influence in this world. However the Lord did not do that. He did not used to do that, and neither does he do that now.

7. It is not on human ability or influence which the Lord has been focusing his attention, but on "faith." Various kinds of persons are assembling here. You could say that [we] have nothing in common except for one thing. That one thing is "faith." Christ is turning his eyes on our faith and is saying the following to us who are in assembly [here] with just [our] faith as the least common denominator. "You are the salt of the earth. You are the lights of the world."

You Mustn't Lose [Your] Saltiness

8. Therefore, what we should ask ourselves is not "How much can we really do?" Before these words from the Lord we must ask questions regarding our own faith. This is a matter pertaining to faith. For that reason, therefore, the Lord continues on with more to say upon making the declaration that "You are the salt of the earth," saying, "But, if the salt loses its saltiness, will that salt be flavored by anything? No longer being useful for anything, it will be thrown away to the outside and just be trampled upon by people," (verse thirteen).

9. Saying, "if the salt loses its saltiness," is an interesting phrase. In fact, aside from whether or not such a thing could happen, we understand the implications. Assuming you had some saltless salt, it would not be useful as salt. "Hey, this really is salt. It most certainly is. It's just that it has no saltiness, it's not salty. But, it certainly is salt." If we said as much, it wouldn't make much sense. When [you have] salt, it is precisely because it does have a salty taste, a peculiar taste clearly distinct from others, that it can do its job fulfilling its purpose.

10. Salt that is completely indistinct from other white powder is not useful as salt. In this same way, [it is like] the believer who becomes completely indistinct from persons without faith, never expressing the faith, never living the faith. If you get that way, as a believer you cannot fulfill God's purposes. The same thing can be said about the church. A church that ends up no different from a secular meeting. A church that no longer tastes of faith, no longer experiences faith. The people may be meeting and may be active, however, the church has gotten to where it never gives witness to Christ, it never points to God. If [a church] gets like that, as a church it cannot fulfill God's purposes.

11. Believers have things that only believers can do. The church has things that only the church can do. Communicating Christ to the world is something that only those who are believing Christ can do. Giving witness to the love of God is something only those who have experienced being loved by God can do. Proclaiming to the globe the salvation that comes from Christ is only something that the church which has partaken of Christ's salvation can do. Only those who have faith can deliver the faith [to others]. In this same way, salt has things that only salt can do.

12. If it loses its taste, the salt is not useful as salt any more. In that sense, we just need to be salty. The Lord does not say, "If you're incapable, if you are just failing, you are no longer useful for anything, but will be thrown away outside, and will only be trampled by others." So what if we can't do anything big. So what if we can't accomplish much. So what if we're just failing. The issue is NOT whether or not we have the ability. We just need to be salty. Because [we're] the salt of the earth. Unless we've lost our saltiness, God will be able to use us in this world as the salt of the earth.

Shine Your Lights!

13. We can say the same thing in regard to the words, "You are the lights of the world." Continuing on with the next part to this declaration, the Lord makes the following statement. "A city that is on a mountain cannot be hidden. Also, nobody lights a lamp and places it under a container. He puts it on a candlestick. By so doing, then, it shines on everything in the house."

14. Christ says, "A city that is on a mountain cannot be hidden." When we make our faith public and begin to live as believers, it gets to where we cannot hide it any more. It gets to the point that we look like people who believe in Christ. In a certain sense, it means we start being seen with a special look on us.

15. There are some words baptized persons will probably hear [at least] once in their lifetimes. It is the words, "So, you're a Christian, are you?" It means, in effect, they are being seen with a special look on them. It [just may] happen that other people may act this way but nothing is said, [or] you may be asked if you're a Christian and even criticized. Fearful of this, some folks may hesitate to be baptized. Or else, after they become Christians, they may try to keep their being a Christian hidden. They may want to keep their going to church a secret. These kinds of things go on.

16. However, Jesus says, "You should be seen with [that] special look. Indeed, it is a duty to be looked at in that way." He says so "Because you are the lights of the world. Because nobody puts a light under a container." And, the Lord goes on to say in an assertive and positive way, "Shine your lights before others. [You do it] so that the people will see your fine deeds and worship your heavenly father."

17. We need to be careful with these phrases of "your lights" and "your fine deeds." As ordinarily construed, if [I] shine "my light" and people look at "my fine deeds," nobody will begin to worship "me." But, the Lord says, "Do it so they will worship your heavenly father." If that's the case, then naturally, when it says "to shine [your] light" here, it is referring to the light that comes from the heavenly father. For instance, [it is referring to] the faith. Also, when it refers to fine deeds, it is what comes from the heavenly father, for instance, the fruit that is produced out of faith. If it's not that, then it will not come to pass that they "will worship your heavenly father."

18. When we are trying to do the shining ourselves, then we will always wind up being hypocritical. We end up just displays for show. Then ultimately, it could even happen that our "fine deeds" were only ourselves seeking that "I" be worshipped. Therefore, the chief thing is not our good deeds in and of themselves, but the day to day faith life that lies behind them. Are we truly living with God? It is all about having a living relationship with God.

19. You are the salt of the earth. You are the lights of the world. That's what Jesus said. Ordinarily for us, the lives we live may perhaps be plain and repetitious each day. Or worse, [you] may have a hard time at life in which seemingly meaningless hard work just seems to go on and on and on tediously. But, the Lord says there is meaning in our being and living. There is eternal meaning. -- Because of God, the one who has released us and turned us on [as lights]. The point for us to value is that we are to live by faith. We are to live having the flavor and experience of faith [upon us] and shining the lights that come from [that] faith.