You ARE the Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13-16)

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. 14 You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

—Matthew 5:13-16

Some 20 years ago now, I wrote my very first exegetical paper for my undergrad class on Matthew’s gospel on this passage. I unpacked the Greek behind the passage, trying to get a better sense of the true meaning. I examined closely Matthew’s context, trying to understand the meaning for his (I believe) Jewish oriented community. I got an “A” on the paper, and for the past 20 years I have continued to look at this passage. 

And yet, for all my knowledge of the historical context and the meaning of the words, I’m not sure that I REALLY know the meaning of this teaching of Jesus. Oh, I know a lot about the passage, but I’m not sure that I have really internalized the words, recognizing myself as the salt of the earth or the light of the world. 

Do we really know what it means to be salt and light, and if so, why don’t we act like it? How do we understand our lives as arrows pointing to the heavens, our lives as proclamations of the glory of God? For me, more often than not, I find myself slogging through my daily existence with little recognition that my call is to point to someone else, to be the salt that makes others thirsty and the light that leads them up the hill. 

Do I really believe that? Do I really understand what that means. 

O God, help me to be salt and light, pointing to you. 

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