Lesson 9 – Salt and Light

Salt and Light

Lesson aim:       To show how Christians, whose personalities have been developed with the emotional attitudes taught by Jesus Christ, are salt and light for people in their circle of influence.

Scripture:           Matthew 5:13-16.


The processes of thought applied in this lesson to attain the aim are as follows:

i)  Salt and light are what Christians offer as service out of love to other people (Rom. 12:1).

ii)      Blessed or happy Christians have the capabilities to be salt and light.

iii)    Happiness is an accompaniment of the Christian life.  It is secured by forming character traits and emotional attitudes of a wholesome personality based on faith in the spiritual laws of life taught by Jesus Christ.

iv)    Emotional attitudes of a person are developed within his or her learning processes of attaining satisfaction for their instinctive equipment.

  1. Our instinctive equipment is what God created within each human being.  It is identified as innate or inherited.  People have needs, or urges, that drive us to seek satisfaction – or a hope of satisfaction.  These are our physical and spiritual needs (Matt. 6:25).  At the same time people have different degrees of intelligence, certain special capacities and physical attributes.  We have an innate desire to exercise these capacities.
  2. Each person interacts with his or her environment as they seek satisfaction or fulfillment of their instinctive equipment.  This may be called our field of stimulus/ response interplay.  It is where emotional attitudes are internalized.


What does it mean to be salt and light?  Jesus used salt and light as metaphors.  This means these words have been used in the place of others. There is a likeness.  Since salt and light are different in function and value, we need to understand the meaning of each word in order to catch their metaphorical value in our text.

Salt has a purifying value.  It also has a perpetuating quality; that is, it keeps on serving its purpose.  Salt has a practical value of preserving food.  Salt served as an emblematic meaning in God’s covenant (Lev. 2:13).  Moses spoke of the “covenant of salt” as it related to the portion of the Israelites’ animal offerings that were to be kept by the priest (Num. 18, 19).  The perpetuating nature of God’s covenant with King David and his offspring was called the covenant of salt (II Chron. 13:5).  Salt was also used as a metaphor for destruction (Deut. 29:23).  Salt is useful; however, too much is destructive (Judges 9:45).

The Apostle Paul said, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Col. 4:6.  He may have been exhorting the church at Ephesus with the same message when he wrote, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.”  Eph. 4:29.

There is a time and place for everything.  Sometimes we may not know what to say, so it is better to just listen.  However, when we decide to speak, our words should be forgiving (grace) and with the intent of uplifting (salt or light).  This is the function of an “encourager” in the body of Christ (Rom. 12:7).  It takes courage to be authentic with our encouragement (II Tim. 4:3).  Too much salt destroys.  People desire the right balance of salt in their food in order to bring out the flavor.  An encourager will be careful to add flavor to the one’s life they wish to encourage.  They should use the principle of “a lot of them and a little of me.”  Even then this “little of me” should be the “Christ in me.”  Col. 1:27.

A Christian who has lost our capacity to be salt will also have lost our capacity to encourage others in the church.  We need to fix what is wrong if we do not have salt in our lives (Mark 9:50).  We can examine and measure our own attitudes by the beatitudes taught by Jesus.  If the people we are seeking to encourage do not want “salt encouragement,” we may need to shake the dust off our feet and find a place where we can function as an encourager.

Jesus told us to test ourselves for the presence of salt before we test others (Matt. 7:3-5).  By the grace of God and faith in the teaching of Jesus we can have the healing and perpetuating value of salt in ourselves.  We can be encouraged from within and then we can serve as salt for others.  Some of the Hebrew Christians had almost run out of salt.  They were in danger of losing their confidence; consequently, their salvation (Heb. 12:32-39).  Jesus’ use of salt as a metaphor is demonstrated in the following scripture.  He used the perpetuating nature of salt for the eternalness of hell fire:

And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out.  It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.  Everyone will be salted with fire.  Mark 9:47-49

Jesus then asked, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again?  He indicated that it is possible for Christians to regain our salt when He said, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”  Mark 9:50.  Jesus used salt as a metaphor for the quality of the character of a Christian that encourages other people and thereby makes peace in the world around them.

How did Jesus use the metaphor of light?  What is its likeness in relation to Christian behavior?  Let us get technical about how light lets us see; a source generates electricity to a light bulb which in turn sends out light waves.  When the waves strike an object, such as a chair, the pattern of the waves is changed.  If an eye is present it may receive and carry these waves to the brain.  If this person already has an image of a chair in their memory bank, they may say, “I see a chair.”  If they have never seen a chair, they may ask, “What is it?”  Jesus made the following metaphorical observations.  It may help us to understand how He used the word “light” as a metaphor in our text.

The eye is the lamp of the body.  If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness, if then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!  Matt. 6:22, 23

Speaking of Himself, Jesus said:

This is the verdict:  Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.  Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.  But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.  John 3:19-21

With the use of the technical information about how people see physical objects and the foregoing scriptures we can make this hypothesis:  Truth is the source – the generator.  Jesus taught and lived truth; therefore, He is the “light bulb” that sends out “life waves.”  People who are seeking truth with a healthy eye can reproduce the principles of life, as in eternal life, from Jesus’ personality and character into their minds and hearts (Gal. 4:19; Heb. 10:16).  They become enlightened by their understanding and faith in the truth they understood (Heb. 10:32; 3:14).  God can now be glorified by the deeds done by these Christians for others because they themselves now function as the “light bulb.”  They send out “life waves.”  Other people can see the truth about life in them – the life Jesus taught and lived.  If a light bulb is hidden under a cover it cannot serve its intended purpose.  Lights hidden in church buildings do not serve as lights to a world lost in darkness.  People who do not look at Jesus Christ in the gospels with a “poor in spirit” attitude will be full of darkness.  How great is their darkness?  The answer screams out of the darkness with cries of unhappiness.

What is the practical meaning of being salt and light?  This metaphor relates to Christians only.  All other mature people are still in the kingdom of darkness (Eph. 2:1-3).  We were all there at one time; however, we heard the message of the kingdom of God.  We developed faith in true life.  We were born again.  We are “sons of the light and sons of the day.”  I Thess. 5:5.  “We walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin.”  I John 1:7.  Consequently, we have the gift of the presence of the Holy Spirit, “As the Scripture has said, ‘streams of living water will flow from within him.’”  John 7:38.  These streams of living water flow from faithful Christians when we function as salt and light for other people.   We serve like salt and light function in the natural world.

The Apostle Peter explained the process in developing the “divine nature.”  Then he said, “For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”  II Pet 1:8.  Peter’s presentation broadens the scope for Jesus’ teaching in Matthew 5:1-16.  Effective and productive Christians’ lives are the result of being salt and light.  Living effective and productive lives are products of the “strong character model” Peter described.  Christians with the healthy emotional attitudes Jesus presented are happy people.  Happy people have the opportunity to be salt and light for those who need their service.

Fruit became synonymous with eternal salvation in the preaching of both John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ.

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.  And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’  For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.  The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.  Luke 3:8, 9

But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.  Luke 8:15

Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.  Matt. 7:19, 20

God will be glorified by Christians only when we develop the attitudes taught by Jesus.  It should be noted that we, as Christians, are not trying to “turn people on” toward us; we seek to “turn people on” toward God.  We can do this with the personality described by Jesus.  The most lasting hope we can give anyone is the hope of being glorified as a son of God eternally.  We must reveal God as a person.  The world must see Him as a loving heavenly Father.  Jesus said, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
Matt 5:16.  Please review Part I, Lesson One.

We have moved through the first three “thought processes” listed in the Introduction.  Please review these items and study item four again.  This has been fully explained in Part I, Lesson One.  Please review this presentation in order to understand how the satisfaction of our instinctual needs relate to the development of our emotional attitudes.

 Jesus taught us eight emotional attitudes that have their basis in parental love (agape) and experimental faith.  These are the laws of life pertaining to personality.  We are not born with these attitudes; however, our spirit came from God and it is designed in His likeness (Heb. 12: 9; Jas. 3:9).  Jesus is the “exact representation of His Being.”  Heb. 1:3.  We must learn the emotional attitudes taught by Jesus.  Since our spirit (self) has a natural likeness of His, the learning of these attitudes can be easy.  All people want to be happy.  There are many ways that lead to unhappiness.  Jesus’ way is the only way to be happy (Matt. 7:13, 14).  Happiness and other blessings come to us because we have the healthy attitudes He taught.

The learning process of the attitude comes first.  Jesus gave us eight healthy attitudes to learn. The hard part of learning them may be in the fact that we need to adopt these attitudes into our personalities and maintain them while we go about seeking to satisfy our innate needs.  At times we may question the wisdom of Jesus as we seek the satisfaction of our needs from our relationships with other people.  Many of these relationships will be with people in the world.   Clashes may come between our urges and the attitudes Jesus taught us to maintain.

The aim of this lesson is to show how Christians are salt and light “in Christ” so we give glory daily to our Father in heaven.  The Holy Spirit is with us and leads us in this program.  We need to have satisfaction for our innate needs in order to be happy.

All people came into this world in total dependence on their parents.  Parents generally work hard to satisfy their children’s needs with the exception of their sexual urges.  However, youth have a strong need to achieve so they seek independence from their parents.  Still people have needs that are not satisfied in their independent stage.  They strive to move to an interdependent level of life.  This is where satisfaction can be attained for our sexual needs in marriage as well as our other needs (I Cor. 7:1-5).  Each spouse seeks to satisfy for their own, not just the others sexual needs.  They strive to make a secure home for themselves and their children who are the fruit of their sexual needs.  They help each other achieve and give them glory when they do.

But why is it that we have so many unhappy homes?  The answer is found in the first column.  We must maintain these attitudes while seeking satisfaction of our innate needs in column two.  We will also need the blessings in column three to be successful for they are the foundation for our strong character.  The key thought is integration of all three columns.

Integration requires a clear goal.  The present goal of Christians while we are in this body is to be “salt and light” for God under the Lordship of Jesus and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit (II Cor. 13:14).  This goal will keep all our priorities aligned as we go into the world to serve God and seek the satisfaction for our needs.  However, the world may not appreciate our efforts and they may not assist us in our activities to satisfy our needs.  And then there is the other thing that is a threat to many people’s security program.  Alas, we must die if Jesus doesn’t come soon.  That is not a security problem for faithful Christians because Jesus has assured us of the resur-rection of our spirits in a new body (John 11:25; I Cor. 15:42-44).

Christians will encounter insults and persecutions as we function as “salt and light.”  These interpersonal relationships are God’s discipline for our eternal goal of being sons of God in His eternal kingdom.  Please note in column three how, even now, Christians are already enjoying aspects of being sons in the kingdom of God.  Our eternal hope of inheriting the kingdom of God will be an integrating force up to and through our physical death.  The manner in which we die may be our last learning experience for character building.

Mankind’s greatest need is for eternal glory.  Many try to get it here from “their stuff” and people; however, it will never be enough to satisfy this great urge (John 5:44).  Presently, Christians have satisfaction in hope (Rom. 8:18-25).  The foregoing chart depicts the narrow road to happiness on earth and eternal glory (Matt. 7:13, 14).  You may want to review each of the lessons on the beatitudes to understand how they are compatible with the programs we may design to supply satisfaction for our innate needs.

From the cradle to the grave people contrive ways and plan programs for the satisfaction of our needs.  These are our major learning experiences.  If we have had more successes than failures we have strengthened our love for man and God.  Our faith in them to help us is working for us this very hour.  However; if we have been unable to enjoy a fair amount of satisfaction for our needs then we have the mental unhealthy emotions of fear and anger in the make-up of our personalities.  We need to consult the teachings of Jesus.

Christians are the salt of the earth and light of the world.  There are no other sources.  All Christians are expected to serve our Lord in this manner at some level.  The variables Jesus will use for our final judgment starts at one “talent” and goes up to ten (Matt. 25:14-30).  We need to determine where we are on the chart in relation to our own abilities and what God has given us to use.  Also, we need to determine where God expects us to be.  Our judgment will be based on our effectiveness and productiveness as salt and light.  Please note that the chart did not start with a zero.

Questions for Discussion

  1. What is a metaphor?
  2. What are the distinct qualities of salt?  How does salt function as a metaphor?
  3. How is the order of the “thought processes” in the Introduction of this lesson a reasonable approach to this study?
  4. How does light relate to human sight?  How does light function as a metaphor?
  5. What is the difference in what salt represents and what light represents in a Christian?
  6. List the non-metaphorical words Peter used that were similar to the result of being “salt and light.”
  7. In what sense was “fruit” synonymous with “eternal salvation” in the teaching of John, the Baptist and Jesus Christ?
  8. Why must a person be a Christian to be “salt and light?”
  9. What does integration mean?  What is necessary for the integration of the capacities of a person?
  10. What is the goal that integrates a Christian’s needs/satisfaction program and their personality?
  11. What is the eternal goal that integrates all the capacities of a Christian?
  12. Explain Jesus’ parable in Matthew 25:14-30 in relation to “salt and light” in our text.

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