Jesus' Purpose Statement for Kingdom People
Through two metaphors from everyday life Jesus gives us a powerful mandate to impact the world: salt and light. In this message, we're exploring what this means and how it all applies to our lives.
Today we continue our series on the Sermon on the Mount. This teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 5-7 really is His great discourse, or manifesto. In this teaching, Jesus unpacks what it looks like to live and anticipate the Kingdom of God. It will give you enough to chew on for the rest of your life. That’s why we spend a good 9 weeks on these three chapters.
He begins His teaching by opening the Kingdom up to everyone, even those who were considered the least likely, with His blessing statements. Now He continues with a purpose statement for Kingdom people.
Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)
“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.
In these three verses, Jesus gives you and me, as people of the Kingdom, a purpose statement in the form of two metaphors. We are the salt of the earth, and the light of the world.
These are two timeless metaphors. We cannot imagine life without either of them – back in the Ancient World, or even today. Two examples taken directly out of daily life, that speak to the imagination, and give us clear insight to how we relate to and impact the world around us.
In Jesus’ day, salt was used for two things: to flavor and preserve food. Of course, we still use salt as flavoring today – many say we even overuse it – but we don’t use salt as a preservative as much anymore. They used to rub meat and fish with salt, so that it would last much longer, which was absolutely vital in fridgeless world.
Jesus says something funny here: if salt loses its flavor, it’s useless. Wait a moment, the smart people say, sodium chloride is a stable compound. Salt doesn’t lose its flavor…
That’s correct. And even people in the Ancient World knew this. Yet, the salt that was used in Jesus’ day – taken from salt rocks or collected from the Dead Sea, wasn’t pure salt. It was impure and diluted. Because of this, it could definitely lose its flavor and function after some time and then would become worthless and thrown out.
I love this idea of Kingdom people as the salt of the earth. There is this assignment from Jesus in this metaphor, a mandate, to flavor the world and preserve it.
Salt has an unseen impact. You can’t see if a dish has enough salt in it. You can only taste if it does. The same goes for the preservation function, you can only see on the meat if it has enough salt rubbed into it. You only know by watching it over a long period of time to see how fast it would decay.
You and I, as Kingdom people, are called to have unseen impact as well.
We flavor and preserve the world with our private prayers. We flavor and preserve the world through loving God above everything and our neighbour as ourselves.
And you may think that there is nothing special about it, but Jesus tells you that it really matters to Him.
As Kingdom people, we are called to have unseen impact, the way that salt flavors a dish.
By just adopting an overall friendly and helpful attitude, working hard at your job even when the boss isn’t looking, offering a helping hand and encouraging word where you can, by refusing to gossip and talk people down, being reliable, trustworthy, devoted, humble, sensible and respectful you have an unseen impact the way that salt flavors your favorite meal.
Yet, Jesus says, make sure that your salt doesn’t lose its flavor. This happens when the presence of the Kingdom in your life becomes diluted, through sin, apathy, self-focus or distraction. These things pollute your life and make your testimony worthless because the way you live doesn’t support the words you speak.
As Christians, we cannot live out our calling by staying together in the salt shaker. We have to be sprinkled on the dish.
One last thing about salt. The only way salt works, is in direct contact. Just by placing a salt shaker on the table doesn’t make your meal very tasty. You have to put it on the food! As Christians, we cannot live out our calling by staying together in the salt shaker. We have to be sprinkled on the dish.
Jesus says: you are the salt of the earth.
The second metaphor that Jesus uses to help us understand our purpose in this world, is light. You are the light of the world. And then, to explore this metaphor, He uses two examples, that of a city on a hill, and of a lamp in a room.
There was no way to miss a city in these days. Especially a city like Jerusalem, built on Mount Zion, you’d be able to spot from far away. Most buildings were built with light limestones, and with the sun on it, you’d need a good pair of sunglasses to look at it.
The same goes for a lamp in a room. Imagine yourself in a small town in Ancient Israel. It’s evening, and you are sitting in your one-room house. It’s getting dark, but you are not ready for sleep yet. You quickly get the one lamp you own, light it, and then you put it up on a stand, high up in the room, so that the whole room will be lit by that one lamp.
Hide that lamp under a bucket, and you won’t be able to see a thing!
Jesus uses these two examples to stress our function in this world. We need to be a light to a world that is in darkness. Where salt has an unseen impact – you cannot miss a lamp in a dark place.
Light is often associated with truth, knowledge, righteousness or even divine revelation.
And this says a lot about our function in this world as light.
It is through our testimony about Jesus, and through the way we live and the things we do in Jesus name, that people come into contact with the One that is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
Jesus doesn’t call us to BE the light of the world. He says we ARE the light of the world. The question is not if your light is switched ON or OFF, but if your light is HIDDEN or ELEVATED.
Being a light in the world is about if you are going to speak up or shut up.
Being a light in the world is about if you will testify of what Jesus has done in your life, or denying you know Him, even when there is a clear opportunity.
Being a light in the world is about taking a risk, being seen and becoming vulnerable for critique or even persecution, in order to help people to see that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of this world, and without Him there is only darkness.
Jesus says: you are the light of the world.
Living the Kingdom
The Sermon on the Mount is about how we can live and anticipate the Kingdom. So, let’s explore how the metaphors of salt and light help us to do that.
The mission is to impact the world with the Kingdom of God, however, whenever, whoever, wherever!
Jesus calls you and me to live as Kingdom people. He calls us to represent Him in your everyday life; at home, in our neighbourhoods, at school, at work, everywhere!
He calls us to inject this world with truth, life and love the way that salt flavors a dish and the way a lamp lights up a room.
Sometimes our impact is unseen, sometimes it is on display.
Sometimes it happens in private, sometimes in public.
Sometimes through our words, sometimes through actions.
Sometimes on distance, sometimes in close contact.
The mission is to impact the world with the Kingdom of God, however, whenever, whoever, wherever! Jesus calls you to live and speak and act in such a way that, through you, people will come to know Him.
Jesus warns us about what will limit our impact: if your salt gets impure, or your light is hidden.
Don’t hide the light of the Gospel behind a bucket called: “what will they think”.
If our lives get polluted, our testimony gets diluted. Impure salt will become useless over time. Make sure to stay close to Jesus and let His grace renew you every day, so that your life can be a pure testimony.
Don’t hide the light of the Gospel behind a bucket called: “what will they think”. When you get a chance to share that testimony, or even mention that you are a Christian – elevate your light, don’t it. Don’t be afraid to mention the name of Jesus.
Anticipating the Kingdom
How do these two metaphors help us to anticipate the Kingdom? How do we live with an expectation that His Kingdom is about to break in and break through?
I believe, that through the metaphors of salt and light, as our purpose in this world, Jesus is calling us to a life radically devoted to Him, with confidence that our presence in this world matters.
We are currently in a health-crisis. We are heading towards an economic crisis. But we already were in a cultural crisis called postmodernity. Our world is becoming increasingly confused, distracted, polarized, entitled and ignorant. The world is going through a time of crisis and confusion right now, and we’ve got a role to play in this.
Don’t let these crises pollute or hide your testimony. Don’t get sucked in to this cultural moment. We’ve got a role to play in the midst of all this.
I recently read about how a well-known Jewish sociologist, Dr. Friedman, had a very interesting insight in system theory. He says that every network of relationships is like a system –a family, school campus, work environment, sub-culture, society or even the Western World as a whole.
He argued that our Western World has become an anxious system - dysfunctional, confused, afraid and emotionally unstable.
He discovered that, the only way an anxious system can change, is through a non-anxious presence. That non-anxious presence is a person or a group of people that is part of the system, but doesn’t take part in its ways. That peaceful, integrated, non-anxious and emotionally stable presence can be the beginning of change in a dysfunctional system – just by being present.
This is what you and I are called to as well: To be a people of peace, in a time of chaos.
To be a people of hope, in a time of anxiety To speak the truth in love, in a time of polarization.
And in a time of distraction, to make a decision that nothing can ever keep us from living completely devoted to Jesus – in anticipation of the coming Kingdom.
Which of these two metaphors is most clearly lived out in your life at this point? Why?
Of the two things that will limit your impact (pollution and hiddenness) which one is the biggest danger for you?
What will you do differently tomorrow after hearing these words of Jesus?