I recently read my kids the cutest story which got me studying Jesus’s concepts about being the salt and light of the world. The story was about a little girl who had to work as her mother was gone and her dad was crippled. Of course, this story takes place long ago but it has a timeless lesson.
The little girl would sing a song about being a light in her little corner. She could not contribute much but she could do the best she could and shine for Jesus with her good attitude. I will be honest, it did convict my heart a bit. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how much it convicted my listeners lol
Because the little girl was letting her light shine, she also inspired others to let their light shine in their own little corner of the world and so Jesus’s love was spread to everyone in the story. Shining in your own corner looked differently to each character.
What does being the salt and light of the world mean for us today? What was Jesus trying to teach us?
Salt and Light Verses
Let’s begin with salt and light verses.
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.
“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16)
Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. (Mark 4:21-22)
“No one, when he has lit a lamp, covers it with a vessel or puts it under a bed, but sets it on a lampstand, that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:16-17)
No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. (Luke 11:33)
“For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.” (Mark 9:49-50)
What Does Salt Mean Spiritually?
The idea of salt having more of a spiritual meaning than simply preservation first dawned on me when I read the words of Jesus mentioned above. He makes reference to salt and sacrifices. This was one of those instances in which you know you have read a verse multiple times and suddenly you are like, “WHAT?”.
I had no idea that salt was mentioned alongside the sacrifices so I started to dig and found not only where God commands salt be used but a new concept of a “covenant of salt”.
Of course, Jesus and the people he was speaking to had an understanding of these practices which is why Jesus mentions it. I, personally, had no understanding of these practices so had to do some research. I have to share with you what I discovered. It brings the salt verse of Jesus into a whole new light.
And every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt. (Leviticus 2:13)
“All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer to the Lord, I have given to you and your sons and daughters with you as an ordinance forever; it is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord with you and your descendants with you.” (Numbers 18:19)
Should you not know that the Lord God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt? (2 Chronicles 13:5)
We also find that salt has various implications in Hebrew. It is a symbol of barrenness and destruction. Remember Lot’s wife, who turned to a pillar of salt during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah?
Jerusalem Perspective Online suggests that Jesus is continuing the above thought in which he is encouraging us to remove any sinful body member less we be cast into hell. Because the Jews of the day understood that salt also refers to destruction it is not a stretch to say this verse continues with the teaching above. He suggests a more accurate translation of the verse is “Everyone [who is cast into hell] will be completely destroyed” as in destroyed by fire.
So then if we put both new (to me!) concepts together, we find that salt is needed in sacrifices and that it also means destruction. Sacrifice and destruction. A symbol of a covenant and a sign of barrenness.
How do we sum up Jesus’s teachings embracing both of these new ideas? I believe Jesus is referring to those who are not willing to remove the sin in their lives warning that they will be cast into hell. He continues with talk of sacrifices, symbolic to God’s covenant, and then asks what happens when the salt loses its effectiveness.
What does happen when salt loses its effectiveness? It is worthless. I know this sounds harsh but so are those who refuse to follow the Lord. Their efforts are worthless, getting them nowhere, no matter what caliber of “good” people they try to be.
Jesus ends his instruction in Mark 9 with this commandment. “Have salt in yourselves and have peace with one another”. How do we have salt in ourselves? By removing the sinful areas of our lives. By denying to self and providing our lives a living sacrifice. During this process, we are destroying the carnal man.
Only once we have allowed God to remove the darkness from our hearts can we live at peace with our fellow man. (For more on removing sin in our lives and living in the spirit check out “Do Not be Conformed to this World: 5 Strongholds We Need to Let Go Of”).
Before we leave this discussion on the spiritual meaning of salt, let’s visit one more concept. Salt has been used to preserve meat for thousands of years. It prevents it from spoiling. As followers of Christ, we are a kind of preservation. As we spread the gospel of Jesus and share his words with others, we preserve truth.
We keep it from being corrupted or ruined. As we lean into Jesus and grow closer to him, we can pass that truth onto the next generation. We preserve the path to heaven for those who come after us.
You are the Light of the World Meaning
We know that Jesus is not simply talking about a real lamp. Why did Jesus emphasize putting the lamp on a stand? What is the spiritual meaning of the lamp?
Simply put, God is light and the lamp represents Him. In turn, Jesus is the light and we represent him.
Let’s go back to how God represented himself as light in the Old Testament.
The first place we see this is in Genesis 1:3 in which God said “let there be light, and there was light”.
We could get very philosophical here but we are going to keep it simple. God created light on the first day of creation as an expression of Himself.
In many pagan religions, we see the worship of the sun. Rather than worshipping the creator, they worship the created (Romans 1:25). It’s actually kind of interesting when you look it up. Stay with me, I’m making a point, but check out this list.
- Sol, the Norse sun goddess
- Helios, the sun god of the Greeks
- Inti, the sun god of the Incas
- Arinna, sun goddess of the Hittites
- Surya, the Hindu sun god.
One of the plagues God sends upon Egypt is darkness for three days. This was meant to show Yahweh’s power over Ra, the Egyptian sun god.
My point is that God identified himself as a light BEFORE He made the sun. The very first thing He did during creation was made Himself known. How? By creating light! While other religions worship the sun, the greatest light in the sky, we worship the true God, the creator of all.
When God calls Moses, He appears as a burning bush (light).
Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” Then he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” At this, Moses hid his face, because he was afraid to look at God. (Exodus 3:2-6)
After the Children of Israel are delivered from slavery, God leads them through the wilderness. He is a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire to give them light at night. (Exodus 13:21)
God was represented by fire. Just like our lamp.
Scripture prophecies of a coming day when God’s light will no longer be concealed but will surround us. More evidence that He is light.
There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign forever and ever. (Revelation 22:5)
The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you,
for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. (Isaiah 60:19)
So what does all of this mean to me?
Jesus declares himself as the light of the world. As his followers, we reflect his light. We are meant to be so focused on him that the light shines forth from us. It is not hidden under a basket or a bed. It is placed on a stand so that everyone may see the light.
It is important to note that just as the moon reflects the sun, we reflect the light of God. We are not a light ourselves. Our lamp is fueled by our close contact with the light of the world.
This is why Jesus mentions men seeing your good works and glorifying God. We are constantly pointing the way to God.
How Can I be the Salt and the Light of the World Today?
So then how can I be the salt and the light of the world today? How do these verses apply to me? What is Jesus telling me to do?
Jesus is telling us several things:
- We, his followers, are the salt and the light. We are meant to share God’s truth with the world.
- Being the salt and light of the world is an ongoing process as we draw closer to God.
- It is necessary that we always point the way to Christ in our words and actions.
- Sacrificing our carnal nature is the only way to obey these commandments. We cannot point the way to Christ and preserve his truths when we are not following him obediently.
These points can mean different things to each of us. For some of us, it is working in ministry, for others, it is allowing God to use us at our jobs. No matter where you are the salt and the light of the world, it begins in your heart. Ask God to show you where you can be a light. Evaluate your walk with him. Is it strong? Are you just going through the motions or are you on fire for Christ? Is he the lover of your soul or are you satisfied with a lukewarm faith?
Are you obeying and sharing Christ’s words? Are you both walking in the truth and reflecting it? Have you denied yourself?
These are difficult questions and I welcome you to share your thoughts in the comments below. How are you obeying Christ’s command to be the salt and light of the world?
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