Verse 13 starts with a verse I have a difficult time understanding. “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (verse 13) What does salt do? It provides flavor to food. So why does Jesus tell his disciples they are salt? Perhaps Jesus is talking about a reputation. As Christians, we are not to live our lives as though we are Pharisees judging everyone and looking down our noses at unbelievers. Yet we should be kinder, more loving, and more serving of others. What I’m trying to say is, our lives should look different. We should have a reputation as Christians of trying to conform to the image of Christ. Yet our reputations are sullied when we do things that are incredibly uncharacteristic of Jesus. People mistakenly see our shortcomings as a reflection of Jesus, yet that isn’t the case (obviously); rather, it is a reflection on our own sin. The issue is, once people see how hypocritical we can be when our hearts aren’t fully committed to Jesus, it is incredibly difficult to share the truth of the Gospel with them. It is why Jesus says next that the salt is only good “to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (verse 13). Ouch! The biggest issue with the damage of our reputations is not that it harms us; it harms how that person will view God, because their only association with Christianity is hypocritical Christians. The biggest argument I ever hear against Christianity typically has very little to do with God or Jesus; it has to do with how Christians have looked no different than anyone else when it comes to lifestyle or a morality code. We need to cautiously remember that we need to constantly seek out God’s grace in our lives so that we may not serve as a hindrance to unbelievers.
Jesus next uses another analogy to teach us more about evangelizing to the world. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden” (verse 14). The tricky part about this verse is that when taken out of context, it can be inflating to our egos. We begin to think of ourselves as perfect light, or a city that rises up above everything else. We should always remember that salvation is Jesus’s gift to everyone, and that it is only he who offers that salvation. Pride is a personal struggle of mine, and I need to be constantly grounded by being in the Word and by surrounding myself with other believers so that I can remember with humility how gracious God has been to me, and that my role as a Christian is never to judge others, but simply to share with them how Jesus can bring them into the light. Cities never have a single resident. And a room with many lights is brighter than a single nightlight. Jesus never intended us to be in Christianity as individuals. He wanted us to be in community together, and that community should always be a city with an open gate.
Christianity, when followed the way God intents, can be contagious. And that isn’t because of us, but it is because our wonderful Savior is a God worth following. “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” (verse 15). God’s love isn’t something we should be quiet about. When we ourselves remain in the light, and treat others with grace, it provides an opportunity for others to see past our reflections and to the actual source of the light, Jesus Christ.
Verse 16 wraps up this whole concept of acting as light with a simple commandment. “In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven” (verse 16). We must pray to God for grace in our day to day lives, so that we as Christians may have pure reputations before men, who can look to our good deeds as coming from an external source, that of our wonderful Father, who is the perfect model of good deeds.