GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
8 February 2023 (Epiphany 5)
BE THE SALT AND LIGHT
In this text, Jesus is calling his disciples, which include you and me, to the highest standard of conduct. Just after the text of the beatitudes (5:1-12), He is challenging us to "turn the other cheek." He is commanding us to love our enemies, to forgive those who do us wrong, and to act with the purest motives. We are called to be the salt of the earth. He is expecting all of us to make a difference in our lives as a disciple in contributing to transform the Church and society. He said there are two roads, a wide road that leads to destruction and a narrow road that leads to life.
Our world and Church desperately need role models. The Bible teaches: “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
In today’s text, Jesus is teaching his followers that they are the salt of the earth. The salt is a particularly useful commodity. Trade was built upon it; wars had been fought over it; taxes upon it had been resisted. Films have even been made about it. Its uses range from being a condiment to being a preservative. At one time no house could do without it. But salt alone, on its own is useless. Nobody would eat salt alone, but it brings the good taste when in contact with vegetables, fish, and meat. It brings transformation to the other products.
Brothers and sisters, we as followers of the Christ are being called to impact the world as salt transform the taste of the products it is in contact with.
When the salt has lost its saltiness, it is of no use. It is thrown out and trampled under foot. We are called to be faithful, uncompromised, pure, and authentic, and to bring transformation in our church and society. "You are the salt of the earth."
Light (Matthew 5:14) is also an essential commodity. If you have ever been travelling through the countryside to a town or city, and seen the distant lights of your destination seeming to draw ever closer, then that is the picture which we have here. If the city is built on a hill, then you will not miss it, though you might quite fail to find a small village nestling in a hidden valley.
Likewise in our homes (Matthew 5:15), we tend to have a source of illumination in every room. We do not keep our reading lamps under a basket in the porch. Electric lamps are most likely to be on the ceiling, where their light can disseminate throughout the room.
The Bible teaches us that there have been secret Christians - like Nicodemus, and Joseph of Arimathea, in Jesus’ own time - but by and by they must reveal themselves and nail their colours clearly to the mast (John 19:38-42). Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12; John 9:5), but we have also been commissioned to bear His light to the nations (Acts 13:47). This is done through personal evangelism, but also through living the life of Christ before men (Matthew 5:16).
Jesus warns us against making a show of our piety before men, in order to be seen of them (Matthew 6:1). This is in order to redress a tendency for dramatic display which satisfies itself with the applause of men. Jesus encourages us to do our works of piety for the glory of God, without drawing attention to ourselves.
However, that is no contradiction of what Jesus says here about letting our light shine before men (Matthew 5:16). In the later passage we are being told not to solicit the praise of men in our “secret” devotions, which are mainly between ourselves and God (Matthew 6:4; Matthew 6:6; Matthew 6:18). In Matthew 5:14-16, as in 1 Peter 2:12, we are being encouraged out of the closet into the public arena so that men might “see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
God calls all of us to be transformed, conformed to the image of His Son.
Brethren, be the living good news. Be the authentic light be the authentic salt and stay blessed.
The Most Revd Dr James Wong Yin Song
Church of the Province of the Indian Ocean