Our Savior Jesus Christ tells us in Matthew 5:13-14 that we are the "salt of the earth" and the "light of the world"—we who are also the weak and the foolish of this world (I Corinthians 1:27). Mentally, when we hear such praises from God, some of us look both ways and behind, and say, "He must be talking about someone else." We struggle to overcome, and we feel we are always "a day late and a dollar short." Though we wish with all our heart that we were more like God, His image in us seems all the more elusive.
But Jesus did not lie in saying these things. As salt gives food a rich, pleasant taste, we are those who are to give a good flavor to the lives of those we encounter. There should be something in our conduct that shows the fruit of the life to which God has called us.
He goes on to say that, if we are not "radiating with flavor"—reflecting the teachings of God in our lives—what use are we, especially to God Himself? Salt without flavor has no use, and it can even be detrimental to the things it comes in contact with. Maybe its best use is to be put on icy roads, to be ground under the tires of vehicles and then washed away.
In Christ's other metaphor, light illuminates what was once dark; it reveals things that were hidden. Though we may be poor, considered old and over the hill, uneducated and obscure, when we live our lives as He instructs, we are a brilliant beacon to this tired and confused world. Our lives can shine a spotlight on the solutions to many common problems experienced by our friends and neighbors.
Jesus points out that we should not hide our light under a basket (verse 15), but live it in the open for all to see. We can set a proper example of the abundant way to live. We should give everyone we meet the light of our loving concern, the light of our honesty, the light of joy and peace, the light of godly family relations, the light of good work habits, and all the other rays of light contained in God's way.
In doing this, we will initially bring attention upon ourselves, and this may at times become uncomfortable. Righteousness has an uncanny tendency to bring out the worst in carnal human beings. Ultimately, however, we will glorify God the Father and His Son by it, promoting the cause of the Kingdom of God.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
Abstaining From Evil
In the Parable of the Light recorded in Matthew 5:14-16 (found also in Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16-17; 11:33-36), Jesus Christ uses two figures of speech to express the responsibility of true Christians to influence the world: "a city . . . on a hill" and "a lamp . . . on a lampstand."
Many Judean cities were founded on the summits or sides of mountains, and travelers could see them from afar. Perhaps Jesus pointed to such a city, telling His disciples that they were like it. The city built on an important location can be seen by many eyes over a wide area, representing a disciple's far-ranging and widespread exposure to others.
Jesus' illustration of a shining lamp illuminating the home suggests a disciple's more intimate influence. By design, a Christian's actions cannot be hidden from the eyes of either our families or the world at large. This being the case, he must live a righteous, holy, humble, and pure life, letting his "light so shine before men [and thus] . . . glorify your Father in heaven."
Martin G. Collins
Parable of the Light
Other Forerunner Commentary entries containing Matthew 5:14: