CMC Eps 18 – MATTHEW 5:13-16 – SALT AND LIGHT
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Hi.. I’m Gene Ort.. and you’re listening to the common man commentary..
This is podcast #18.. We will be looking at MATTHEW 5:13-16
The title for this podcast is: “ salt and light ”
Here is the passage in the ESV version..
““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.”
Here is the passage in the message version..
““Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”
Matthew 5:13-16 MSG
We are still setting on the hillside with Jesus..
The beatitudes or “ your blessed when “ portion of Jesus message is now behind us. Jesus moves on.
As I am writing this podcast, I am setting in a camp site in ludington michigan. It’s early morning and it’s cool.. a slight breeze. Definitely sweat shirt weather. I have moved my lawn chair into the only spot on site where the sun is peeking through, just like my dog moving around the house to find the sunny spot to sleep. Then I read, you’re here to be light, bringing out the God colors of the world. The words, “you are here to be “ strike me a little. What Is the purpose of life ?, thats a question you hear over and over again, is it being addressed right here ? The simplicity of it allows it to be hidden in plain view.
The light warms me.
Thats a really good feeling when your just a little chilled. We are warm blooded creatures. Our window of tolerance is pretty narrow when it comes to what we can take in the way of temperature range. I am in India often and have experienced 105 temps for days in a row. I live in Michigan so for me any ways its seems like I am cold a lot of the time. In the winter, I build a nice fire in the fire place every evening. Just watching it makes me feel warmer. I often sit right next to it..
So, Jesus says “we are the light of the world “. Certainly one way to look at this metaphor is in the way light brings warmth. People are often described using temperature range terminology. He has a warm heart.. or she’s cold hearted. Expressing affection is often said to be done with a warm embrace.
As I read the message interpretation, I am drawn toward the image he paints of this light projecting person. They are available, not hiding away in the dark. Vulnerable. They are generous with their lives. What does that really mean? I know what I think being stingy means. The seagulls from finding Nemo come to mind : “ Mine.. Mine .. Mine .. “ thats probably a meme you can search.. if you don’t get the movie reference.
So generosity of life is kindness in action, choosing “ others “ .. at least some of the time.
Our presence when living the way Jesus is describing, warms the world. There is something missing in this teaching that feels glaringly obvious to me. Religious language.
For a good part of my Christian experience, I think I must have been more interested in getting the theology correct.. knowing and believing the right things was vitally important. You needed to be able to defend your doctrinal position. Being able to memorize passages and know the address’s. That was at least one path to the recognition I wanted in the church world. And of course making sure you didn’t do anything on the sin list and get caught. I got really good at the institutional church model. Serve.. volunteer.. give money.. all that. Image management, performance and productivity is key.
All that seems to be missing from Jesus’s mountain side message. He wants us to be warm, available, generous and loving. By opening up our lives and being vulnerable and real, we encourage others to do the same.
If this message was being taught to be.. I was unable to hear it for along time. I missed it.
I am thinking that this was no different in Jesus day. The Pharisees and other religious folk of the day knew the performance religion game very well and they were profiting from it big time.
Eugene Peterson’s version says : “bringing out the God colors in the world. “ What are God colors ?
I think you can equate this with another of Jesus’s prominent metaphors. The fruit of the spirit.. “God fruit “. Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self control. In the fruit metaphor, we are God’s farmers.. planting seeds, tending the gardens whereever we are. In the light metaphor we are beacon’s of light shining these God attributes where ever we are.
In the fruit metaphor, you cant plant a seed that you dont own. In the light metaphor you cant shine a light that you dont have.
These God character traits originate in God and need to be developed in us, His children. We are indeed being parented by God.
The first section draws from the most common seasoning on earth. Salt.. here he makes a clear distinction between salt that has a flavoring effect and salt that has lost its flavoring effect. Jesus uses a common preaching style of the day which some call hyperbole. Basically it’s exaggeration to make a point. “ salt that has lost it’s flavor and is worthless will be thrown out on the ground and trampled under foot.” Salt is here also being used as an alternate metaphor for the fruit of the spirit.
If your life is not growing in character of God salt, God light and God fruit.. then you are not growing but dying.
The implication contained in this passage is that you have to choose to develop God character and after you have developed it, you have to share it.
Choice has become an iconic word to me now. It’s a great universal leveler for all of life.
There is a scene from one of the Indiana Jones movies that has the self centered villain pitted against “Indiana Jones“. An ancient Knight has been protecting the chalice Jesus used in the last super from being takin by unrighteous men. The legend was who ever drank from the chalice was granted eternal life.
As the the villain chooses which chalice he is to drink from, the Knight warns him : choose wisely.. of course he does not and in true to hollywood CG form he melts down to a skeleton in seconds and then vanishes into dust and the Knight proclaims with a smirk : He choose poorly. Of course, Indy chooses wisely and saves himself and his fathers life!
Not to be to overly dramatic, but I hear some of the same tone in Jesus instruction. Don’t let your light go out.. dont hide it.. Don’t lose your life giving flavor ..
Choice is without doubt one of he most important attributes given to human beings. At times I have questioned God’s judgement in allowing me and all of the rest us to have this much power over our own lives.
Every choice we make has a consequence. I think Ravi’s quote is worth repeating here again: God gives us the most sacred gift of the prerogative of choice. But, God does NOT give you the privilege of determining a different outcome to what the choice will entail. The consequences are bound to the choice.”
I think here is where some of my past Christian teaching was flawed. There was an idea floating around that God was moving us around like chess pieces in some kind of game. He was in control. A puppet master. If that were really true, then why all the time and effort to instruct us in the way we are to live and move? God has made it clear that He will use even our mistakes for good, but mistakes are still mistakes and they have consequences that can bring devastating results. This is the real world that we wake up to every morning.
Jesus instructions are being taught to us so that we might learn and do them.
A pretty famous quote by MAYA Angelou says: When we know better, we do better.
I would add, If we choose to implement what we know.
The language Jesus used in this teaching is very poetic.. beautiful.. artistic. I know why Jesus uses parables and metaphors to teach. It works. It aims for a heart reaction along with intellectual understanding. You can also know right away if it’s reaching you at a deeper level.
No one is really a beam of Light.
No one is really a grain of salt.
If this teaching is reaching you, you will have to interpret it for yourself. You will have to hit the pause button and say : Wait a minute .. how am I being light and salt .. here is where knowing the fruit of the spirit metaphor really is helpful.
Are you growing in Love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and self control? Are these God colors or characteristics showing up in your every day life ? Are you a little salty ? Do you bring warmth with you wherever you go ? Are you illuminating the world around you ?
Here is an opposing list of fruits that might lead you to some healthy self awareness.
Are you growing in indifference, disgust, hate, anger, tension, frustration, intolerance, selfishness, toxicity and self destructive habits?
What I don’t hear in Jesus teaching is condemnation of any kind. He is not the task master waiting to whack you when you fall short, which you definitely will. And when you do, even how you choose to respond to that failure can become salt and light.
Perfection might be the desired goal, but it is outside our reach in life as we know it now.
So Jesus is certainly showing us the path to life lived better. Better choices lead to better outcomes. Better flavor, better illumination. Better tasting fruit.
This salty warm illuminating fruitful life is a direct outcome of a life lived in close proximity to God. This teaching fits in perfectly with the rest of the beatitudes.
One of my favorite teachers said some thing that speaks to this passage for me.
He has passed away from this world now, but if I could have asked him this question, I think I know what his answer would have been : Dallas, what do I have to do to become more like salt and light to my world ?
I believe his answer would have been something like this : “Arrange your life to fall in love with God ! The only thing you have to offer this world of any really value is the Christ transformed version of your self “. Dallas Willard
Well thats enough to think about for now..
Until next time .. I am Gene Ort and Thank you for listening to the common man commentary.
I’D LIKE TO LEAVE YOU WITH This “ blessing :
Love God. Love Yourself. Love the next person He puts in front of you.