Read Matthew 5: 13-27
Sometimes we say, “That needs salt.”
Sometimes the doctor says, “Watch your salt intake.”
Football coaches used to give out handfuls of salt tablets as the cure all for anything.
Dieticians try to come up with salt substitutes.
But there is nothing quite like salt.
Salt isn’t even an element on the periodic table. It is the combination of Sodium and Chloride.
We sometimes call it NaCl. Sodium has an atomic number of 11 and Cloride has an atomic number of 17. I don’t know that any of this means anything with regard to this teaching.
You might think that Jesus would have picked a single element not this simple compound for his metaphor, but he chose salt.
Perhaps it was as simple as everyone knew what salt tasted like and what it was good for and where to get it and not to run out of it. Salt was involved in much of life.
· It makes us thirsty
· It doesn’t have an expiration date.
So maybe we are the God seasoning of the world. People get a taste of God in their encounters with us.
Perhaps we are trusted to preserve life in others by sharing good news.
What if we make people thirsty for God?
What if we rub our Godliness into a wounded world? It might help prevent infection but it hurts like, well, having salt rubbed in an open wound.
If salt gets in your eyes, then they will water until their salinity is back to normal.
The good thing about metaphors is that you can compare a lot of aspects of one thing with the other. Perhaps we are supposed contemplate and meditate upon these sort of teachings more than search for a single meaning.
Salt is a very unique yet ubiquitous substance. We have these same qualities. We are unique, made in the image of God, but each unique in so many ways.
But we are everywhere. People, even God’s people, are found all over the world. We are to make a distinct difference wherever we are.
Jesus continues as if to say, if you didn’t catch on to the salt of the earth analogy, then try this one.
You are stuck in a dark basement and have a candle, a torch, and a lantern but you only have one match. What do you light first.
Surely there was one among them that said, “That’s an old one. You light the match first.”
OK, that’s not exactly the dialogue.
Jesus used the illustration that nobody lights a candle or a lantern and then goes and finds something to cover up the light. You want whatever light you have to reach as far as it can. What’s the point of hiding your light? There was already enough darkness to go around.
Jesus tells those listening and tells us as well, “You are the light of the world.”
Surely someone started composing, “This Little Light of Mine” right then and there, in Greek or Aramaic of course.
Hide it under a bushel?
I’m going to let it shine.
How is a pagan or self-centered or American Idol worshipping world supposed to know the love of God? How does a dark world see the light?
They know this love that comes from God through us. We are the light of the world. Jesus tells us, don’t hide your light.
So we have a little salt and light to chew on as we move to some more direct teachings.
Jesus talks about the law. The law was the 10 Commandments and the other directives given by God via Moses to his people. With over 600 laws of various topics, there was plenty of opportunity to end up violating one or more in the course of a day or week.
But the Pharisees had embalmed the law. They had extracted the love out of the law. The law hand become cold, hard rules with consequences and the love with which the law was given was conspicuously absent in their application.
Many were branding Jesus as a rebel and surely some expected him to say, we don’t need the law any more. I am doing away with it.
But he said just the opposite. He said the law is here until the end of the age. If you disobey the law and lead others to do the same, your standing in God’s Kingdom is lessened. But those who obey and teach others to obey the law will find good standing in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Notice, there is no mention of hell. That had to be encouraging, at least until Jesus told those in attendance that you can’t even get into heaven unless you are more faithful than the Pharisees.
Nobody liked the Pharisees but they did know the law. Academically, the common person was no match for the righteousness of the Pharisees.
Ouch! Those bums with degrees were going to get into the Kingdom of God and the common person would be left out. Ouch!
But we must consider what Jesus said. Our righteousness, our faithfulness must exceed that of the Pharisees.
We are blessed to read as much of the gospel as we want in one sitting. Those listening first hand probably had to chew on this for a while.
We know that Jesus despised much of what the Pharisees had done. Like John the Baptist, he called them a bunch of snakes—a brood of vipers. They knew the rules but they did not know the heart of the One who made them.
Rules were not going to disappear, but if you read the rest of the story, we know that the law of love will surpass—not really do away with but surpass the Law of Moses.
A higher law will prevail. The royal law of love will surpass the Law of Moses.
Having surely provoked the thinking of those listening, Jesus jumps into to some tough topics. You would think that talking about murder would be pretty straightforward, but Jesus tells us that if you have murderous thoughts, hateful thoughts, condemning thoughts, then you have lumped yourself into a similar group.
But the heart of the teaching is not about murder but reconciliation. If you are harboring hate in your heart or if you are withholding forgiveness or if you are just at odds with another person, especially a believer, don’t think your relationship with God is right.
Fix the problem with your brother or sister. Reconcile. That doesn’t mean that you agree on whatever it is that set you off in the first place. It means that you restore the relationship.
This applies when we are worshipping God or about to go before a government court or agency. Reconcile with your brothers and sisters first and preferably instead of going to court.
Salt, light, and reconciliation—that’s plenty for now. Try to get a handle on these because the teaching gets much more challenging as we continue.