We are in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. The Beatitudes have been laid out for us. In the thick of Jesus giving a speech on how to be a true disciple, He points to a very important question. Who do you follow? Jesus honored His followers who took the hard way, those who would live out the Beatitudes. Those who sacrificed for the Kingdom would be the salt of the earth and light to the world. In Matthew, Jesus used two images to stress the Kingdom: salt and light. Both point to the example of the follower and its consequences.
In 5:13, the salt referred to the leveling agent for paddies made from animal manure, the fuel for outdoor ovens used in the time of Jesus. Young family members would form paddies with animal dung, mix salt from a salt block into the paddies, and let the paddies dry in the sun. When the fuel paddies were set ablaze in an oven, the mixed-in salt would help the paddies burn longer, with a more even heat. When the family spent the salt block, they would throw it out onto the road to harden a muddy surface. The discarded paddies literally helped level the road.
Jesus saw His followers as leveling agents. Their mission was to bring balance. Their example would keep the fire of faith alive even under stress. Their example would spread faith to those mired in the cultural “dung”. But if their example rang empty, they were worthless; they would be dug into the mud under the heels of critics. [5:13]
Jesus also saw His followers as the light of a fire to the world. Placing a lit fire under a basket would put the fire out. No air, no fire. The fire should be placed for all to see. So, one cannot hide faith by inaction. One must show faith in action for all to see, so those seeing the witness can be brought to faith and praise God. [5:14-16].
In essence, Jesus told His followers they cannot have it both ways. One cannot believe as a Christian, yet act as if faith did not matter. Faith leads to action and the action points to the Kingdom. If we are truly salt we are a place that is dead to sin. When we are light, darkness has nowhere to go.
This commissioning by Christ is a real-life invitation to action. Bring solid ground to an otherwise muddy road. Annihilate darkness with your light. Both of these things are an expression of your spiritual life. When we are tuned into His teaching, we cannot help but express His mission for us.