By Mike Willis
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the fight of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:13-16).
Jesus used many common illustrations to teach important spiritual lessons. In this text, He compared the Christian to salt and light. Salt preserves food from spoiling and seasons it. Light dispels darkness.
The Christian Is The Salt and The Light
Some people act like they think the Christian is the “sugar” of the earth. They imagine that Christianity demands some kind of artificial, syrupy, and phony form of “love” which never confronts a person directly with his sins. Back slapping, ear-to-ear grins, and other traits of the Dale Carnegie “How To Win Friends and Influence People” character are their stock in trade.
Christians are not the “sugar,” they are the salt. They have learned the valuable lesson taught in Proverbs: “He that rebuketh a man afterwards shall find more favor than he that flattereth with the tongue” (28:23). Consequently, with kindness and gentleness, they rebuke the sinner in the hope of leading him to everlasting life.
For want of ten righteous souls, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed (Gen. 18-19). We who are Christians do more to preserve this nation of ours than all of the missiles in our national arsenals.
If The Salt Has Lost Is Savor
Salt can lose its savor! Christians can fall from grace and become worthless to the Lord. “It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13). Surely such a comparison cannot be descriptive of eternal life! Like so many other passages, this passage teaches the possibility of apostasy and damnation in hell of one who once was saved (cf. 2 Pet. 2:20-22; Heb. 6:4-6; Gal. 5:4).
What are some things which might cause the salt to lose its savor? I would like to suggest the following as a partial of list of things which can cause the salt to lose its savor:
1. Impurity in life. When Christians fail to maintain their moral purity, they lose their savor. They become indistinguishable from the world. Their conduct does not set an example before the world and their lives are not a moral rebuke to the world around them. Indeed, worldliness causes the salt to lose its savor.
We see failures in these areas: (a) Divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:9). God’s laws governing the marriage relationship are cast aside in order that men can put away their mates and remarry for reasons other than adultery. Many churches use men in unscriptural marriages in their teaching programs, to serve the Lord’s supper, and to take other public parts in worship. When this happens, the world is unable to distinguish themselves from Christians. In this way, the salt loses is savor.
(b) Fornication (1 Cor. 6:18). Sometimes Christians engage in premarital and extra-martial affairs. Not a few preachers, elders, deacons, and Bible class teachers have been exposed as being guilty. Their impurity in life suppresses the truth (Rom. 1:8). In this way, the salt loses it savor.
(c) Immodest dress (1 Tim. 2:9,10). The manner in which some Christians dress makes Christians indistinguishable from the world. They go to the public beaches and swimming pools in immodest attire; they wear their shorts in public. In the clothing that they wear, they are indistinguishable from the ungodly world. In this way, the salt loses it savor.
(d) Dancing (Gal. 5:19-21). Some Christians engage in the revelry of the world, participating in their lascivious acts. Few teenagers go through their high school years without attending the prom and joining with their classmates in dancing. Unfortunately, they are encouraged in their decision by parents who don’t want their children to miss this “once-in-a-lifetime” event. In this way, the salt loses it savor.
(e) Drinking (1 Pet. 4:1-3). Some Christians participate in social drinking and in having a couple of beers at home while they watch the ball game on TV. The world sees them purchase their beer at the grocery, their children watch them drink it at home, and the garbage men sees their cans in the trash. In this way, the salt loses it savor.
(f) Factionalism and division (Gal. 5:19-21). In many areas of the country, the people of God can have such little influence on the world because of their inability to get along with one another. They fuss and fight until they divide into two small, quarreling groups. Their influence is destroyed in the community for many years to come as their neighbors hear of the division in the Church of Christ. In this way, the salt loses its savor.
2. Apathy and indifference. All over this country, the churches are unable to accomplish much of any work because the members do not care enough about the Lord to give sacrificially, attend regularly, and generally support the work which is being done. Members have become lukewarm (Rev. 3:15-17), having lost their first love (Rev. 2:4-5).
These members do not have enough interest in the Lord to motivate themselves to attend. How much less will they be able to encourage someone else to obey the gospel and join in the worship of God? In this way, the salt loses its savor!
3. Toleration of sin. Some congregations are like the church at Corinth which tolerated the incestuous man (1 Cor. 5). The church could not influence the community when the community would not tolerate that kind of moral indecency. When congregations close their eyes to the immorality of their membership, never rebuking the sinful member and withdrawing from the impenitent, they become filled with ungodly, worldly church members. In time, their influence in the community is destroyed. In this way, the salt loses its savor!
No doubt there are other ways in which Christians can destroy their influence. However, these should suffice to warn us to be sure that we let our lights shine by living the godly life. We need to let the light shine in our speech, our homes, our work on the job, and every other relationship we sustain in life.
Wherewith Shall It Be Salted?
The influence of the gospel is the only power which God has to save men from their sins (Rom. 1:16). There is no power for salvation from sin in atheism, the world religions (Buddhism, Islam, etc.), and denominationalism. Only the blood of Jesus can save men from sin. We have been charged with the responsibility of taking the saving gospel to the lost world.
What happens if “the salt has lost its savor”? “Wherewith shall it be salted?” If we who are Christians do not take the gospel to the world, saving souls from sin and calling men to righteous living, who will? We cannot expect the pornographers to spread the gospel. We cannot expect the television producers to spread the gospel. We cannot expect the humanists to spread the gospel. If we don’t do it, “wherewith shall it be salted?”
The Power of the Salt and Light
Salt will do its work. So will light. “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid” (Matt. 5:14). We need to have confidence in the power of the gospel and its influence on the lives of men to accomplish its task of saving the world.
The light of a life lived in obedience to God will cause others “to see your good works and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” We need to have confidence in this power. Resorting to carnal appeals to win the lost for Christ is a confession that we have lost confidence in the power of the gospel and its influence on the lives of men to do its work of leading others to salvation.
The Motive Of Letting One’s Light Shine
Sometimes men want to let their light shine that others may see them. The Pharisees of Matthew 6 did their righteousness in a public way in order to have the glory of men (6:2,5,16). The motivation should not be to display one’s acts of righteousness; indeed, our left hand should not know what our right hand does (6:3). Rather, our motive should be to glorify God. When men turn to Christ in obedience to His word as a result of this teaching and life, the Christian rejoices that God has been glorified.
You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world! Has your salt lost its savor? Is your light shining brightly? What would non-Christians with whom you associate say about you? Do they say, “If that is a Christian, I don’t want to be one”? Or, do they say, “That man is a Christian”?
Guardian of Truth XXX: 17, pp. 514, 534-535
September 4, 1986