“You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). The you is plural. Jesus is speaking to a crowd of people (Matthew 5:1). Salt is a preservative. Salt brings out flavor. Christian people scattered over society preserve the degree of goodness, righteousness, and love still present in our culture. People living for Christ flavor society with civility and orderliness. Unbeknownst to the world, Christians are the glue holding society together. Without this flavorful preservative, further disintegration is inevitable.
“If the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13). “It is common in Syria and Palestine to see salt scattered in piles on the ground because it has lost its flavor” (Robertson’s Word Pictures of the New Testament). What good is salt that neither preserves nor flavors? Jesus Christ tells you, Christian, that your presence in the world, along with other Christians, is essential preservative and flavoring.
“You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). The you is again plural. Jesus is speaking to a crowd of followers. By their very nature, lights illuminate their surroundings. Christians scattered throughout the culture have the privilege of being refreshing illumination. How so? Contemplate this. “No one has seen God at any time; if we love one another, God abides in us, and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4:12). One way people may see God is through Christians loving one another. How Christians live and interact has profound significance. Hence the injunction “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). How you live and what you do matters. Jesus Christ tells you, Christian, that your presence in the world, along with other Christians, is essential light.
Notice again the declarations Jesus makes. You are the salt of the earth. You are the light of the world. In each case, our Lord is quite specific. You are; you are. In each case, the verb is present tense, active voice, and indicative mood. The indicative mood indicates what Jesus speaks of is an objective fact. You are the salt of the earth. The active voice indicates the subjects, you and me, instead of being acted upon do the acting. You are the light of the world; you do illuminate the world. The present tense indicates continuous action.
All of this means you do not somehow become a preservative in society by actions you take or maneuvers you make. You are the salt of the earth. You do not become light in the world through special schooling or the act of some licensing agency. The objective fact is plain. The declaration of Jesus is simple. You are the light of the world.
All of the above is true because Jesus Christ died on a cross two thousand years ago for you. Not only so, the blessed Holy Spirit “caused you to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1 Peter 1:3). By means of this joint work of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, God makes you salt and light. As you live in your community, you are salt and light. As you sit in the classroom, work at the office, labor in the mill or factory, you are salt and light.
There is one proper response to this teaching of Jesus. Understand the truth; live for Him. This posture is especially important as unemployment, underemployment, COVID-19, division, and violence rack our culture and society.