A Midwestern Take on Matthew 5:13-16

 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:13-16, ESV

We’re working our way through the parables of Jesus at Prairie Bible Church. It’s been a wonderful series so far, and I encourage you to listen to my husband’s sermon on the speck and the log (Matthew 7:1-5):

A week previous, our senior pastor discussed Matthew 5:13-16, explaining what it means for our church to be salt and light to one another and our community. I mulled on this passage for the week but was most struck by it yesterday morning when I woke to find our driveway blanketed in snow…again.

My first thought when I looked outside was, “I hope the roads are salted,” and my first thought as I drove carefully down our street was, “That car should have its lights on!”

Salt and light.

When I woke to dreary weather, dangerous roads, and distracted drivers, I desired salt and light above all else.

As I drove to church, I paid particular attention to the roads because 1) I was anxious to arrive at church safely and 2) I was fascinated by this hitherto unthought-of take on Matthew 5:13-16.

Having been a Christian for over twenty years, I’ve long been familiar with this passage. The necessity of light seems a given, and I’ve heard multiple pastors extol salt’s usefulness. Salt preserves, seasons, and disinfects. It can neutralize bitterness, remove stains, reduce swelling, and relieve pain. I am positive salty tater tots cure migraines. If you’re still not convinced of salt’s near-infinite usefulness, this article by Reader’s Digest is fascinating.

Having grown up in the Arizona desert, I never heard anyone mention salt in relation to inclement weather and icy roads. Besides, salt wasn’t likely used this way in the ancient Near East. And yet, if God gave salt its nature and employs it as a parable of Christian purpose, why not consider this use?

Most basically, salt melts ice. Our driveway is much easier to shovel if the lowest layer has been salted. So, too, Christians are called to soften hardened hearts. Through charity and humility, we pave the way for sharing the gospel.

Salt clears roads. At 6:00am on Sunday, I could not see the road before me. By 7:00am, the salt had made it visible and manageable. In the same way, Christians must testify to Jesus as the only path to salvation, making Him known and walking in His ways.

Salt prevents slipping. My tires are not great, making me especially thankful for well-salted streets. So, too, Christians must keep one another from stumbling; we must forsake our fallen tendencies and be sanctified in Christlikeness.

Salt aids in ascent. Even if I step on the gas, my car can’t make it up our driveway without a layer of salt. Likewise, mankind can’t take heaven by force. Christians are responsible for making the way to eternal life known: salvation by grace.

Salt enables community. At both of my churches yesterday, attendance was lower than usual as many attendees decided not to risk the drive. Without salt, these numbers would certainly have been lower. Christians are expected to prioritize community with one another and to usher others into life-changing fellowship with Christ.

Ultimately, in freezing climates, salt saves lives. If it loses its saltiness, cars will spin out of control and communities will fracture, roads will be obscured and feet more prone to slip.

So, Christian, let’s be salt with all its manifold uses. Let’s be a preservative, a seasoning, and a disinfectant—but let’s also commit to reaching hardened hearts, helping each other walk in righteousness, testifying to the Way, engaging in Christ-centered relationships, and being life-bringers now and evermore.

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