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Be Good for Something: Salt and Light

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Jesus used two ordinary items to let people know who they were. He told His disciples and the crowds who they were. He tells us today who we are.

  • You are the salt of the earth. (Matthew 5:13)
  • You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:14)

Jesus used two common household items as object lessons so everyone would understand what He meant. It would not have been effective to use metaphors that the crowd didn't know about. Surely, they knew about salt and light.

They knew salt was good for something. They also knew that light was good for something. What the crowds didn't know was that they could be good for something just as salt and light. Therefore, Jesus taught them in what is known as the Sermon on the Mount that is found in Matthew 5 through Matthew 7.

'You Are' Instead of 'You Will Be'

Notice Jesus did not say, "You will be" to indicate future tense. Jesus did not say, "You have been" to indicates the past tense. Jesus spoke in the present tense by telling the people who they already were.

Notice also that Jesus did not say, "You are like the salt of the earth." He did not say, "You are like the light of the world." He emphasized those two common elements that His listeners knew something about.

'Salt of the Earth'

Salt is a very important ingredient in the Bible. It was more valuable in biblical times than it is today. We pay little attention to what's in the shaker on the table. Back in biblical times, salt was so important that people were paid with it instead of with money. There's where the word "salary" is derived. Today, a person would be very offended if he received a bag of salt for working forty hours a week.

Jesus' listeners knew the value of salt and the things salt was used for. Not only was salt used as a monetary exchange for purchasing items and services, but it had many other uses. For you see, salt was good for something.

Many Uses For Salt

  • Salt is one of the basic tastes a person has. It is used to season and flavor food. Disciples are equipped to do the same to a lost or unflavored world. A dish without salt is bland and worthless and is good for nothing just like a Christian who does not spread the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ. He is worthless in the Kingdom of God.
  • In biblical times, salt was part of the Jewish sacrifice. People would throw salt in the water as an offering to God.
  • Salt sealed a covenant. This was done by the two parties licking the salt as a way of agreeing to the conditions of the covenant just as people seal a covenant or contract today by shaking hands on it.
  • Eating together during Jesus' day meant sharing salt much like our saying, "Breaking bread together."
  • Salt was used to purify. Jewish babies were rubbed in salt as soon as they were born.
  • Salt was used to preserve and prevent decay. Farmers in the South used to cover their hams in salt and leave them in the smokehouse until they were cured.
  • Salt is used as an antiseptic. We gargle our sore throats with salt in hot water to get rid of germs.
  • Did you know that if you ever run out of toothpaste, you can use salt to clean your teeth?
  • Salt is used to melt snow. That's strange because salt is also used to make ice cream.
  • Salt creates a thirst. As disciples of Christ, we should make unbelievers thirsty for God.

'Light of the World'

Since we are the light of the world, we can bring light to dark places. We should let our light shine and not hide it under a bushel. We should let our light be on a hill for all to see. We are equipped to keep our light shining and never let it go dim.

Our light should be so others can see it and come to know Jesus as the Savior of the world. However, there are four ways to dim our light.

  1. The world remains in darkness when we do not speak out when we should.
  2. We dim our light when we go along with the crowd and participate in the sin around us.
  3. We keep our light from shining when we commit sin on our own.
  4. When we ignore the commands of God and the teachings of Jesus, we keep our light from shining and no one sees our good works because there aren't any.

Primary Use For Light

The primary purpose for light is to dispel darkness. Both light and darkness cannot exist at the same time. Because God has created us to be light of the world we can illuminate the way for others to see Jesus and come to know Him for themselves.

It is interesting that Jesus called Himself the "Light of the World."

"I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

He teaches that we are like Him. Therefore, we are already equipped to shed light on sin in the world.

Being Both Salt of the Earth and Light of the World

During Jesus' teaching, He did not say we are either salt of the earth or light of the world. He specifically said we are both.

If disciples of Christ do not affect the world around them, then they are good for nothing. If they do not shine a light on sin, then they are good for nothing.

The good news about Jesus' teaching is that we are equipped to do what needs to be done to make this world a better place. We are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Therefore, we can and should be good for something.

According to Jesus' teaching, when Christians don't do their part in the Kingdom of God by being salt of the earth and light of the world they are good for nothing. Remember a little salt and a little light go a long way. Therefore, be good for something.

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