Devotional: What makes salt and light less useful?

Published 1:55 am Friday, February 10, 2023

What do square wheels, poisonous foods, glass golf clubs, and invisible car keys have in common? As tempting as it is to hope that they will be the top selling gift items this year, we know better. Those items are all useless. On the other hand, Jesus jumps into useful things in Matthew 5, and his subjects are salt and light. 

In his day, there was no denying the great use of both salt and light without modern conveniences like refrigerators and electricity. Spices were a luxury item, and salt was so precious that some people were paid in salt (our English word salary comes from the Latin word for salt). Lights are so ubiquitous today (a flip of a switch at every door) that it is impossible to grasp its value back then. Jesus’ point, however, is to explore what could make salt or light not useful. 

Since salt was rarely pure but mixed with other things, it did go bad sooner rather than later, but who would be idiotic enough to let it sit around and go bad? Light was so important for better quality of life that it would have been ludicrous to go to the trouble of lighting a lamp only to cover it. Who would take these useful things and render them useless? But that is precisely Jesus’ point.

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We are salt and light. If we are not practicing the love of God in the world, we are like old salt. If we are not living out our ministry in Christ in the world, we are like a lamp hidden under a basket. If we are not taking our convictions out into community, the marketplace, the workplace, and the schoolground, then we are being fairly useless. I cannot imagine any of us want to be useless.

My contention on Sunday was that Sunday worship by itself will never make the world a better place. Our worship will not heal the world, redeem the world, or change the world. We might feel better after going to worship, but the world does not care how we feel. What changes the world is salt and light. What changes the world is when followers of Jesus put their service into action. When we put faith into action, hope into action, and love into action, then things begin to change. Even one expression of salty people and bright spirits each day is a testament to the fact that God needs us in the world. 

One of the greatest fallacies of the faithful is to leave our service to God on one day each week when most of our life is lived out the rest of the week. Where is God then? Regular, sacred worship can be truly uplifting and inspiring and edifying, but what the world needs most is a little more salt and light. And that would be us. 

Rev. Dr. Peter C. Smith