When you give a gift, you want it to be used. That’s why you gave it! It’s not meant to sit on the shelf or get thrown in the garbage; it’s meant to be used. Imagine that you go to a wedding and give the bride and groom a gift. You’ve given them one of those Blu-ray movie players and a toaster. Pretty decent gifts, and you’d think they’d be easy to put to good use.
But then a year later you visit this couple. And it’s not like they just moved into their place; they’ve been there the whole year. But instead of being hooked up to the TV and showing movies, the Blu-ray player is propping a door open. And the toaster, instead of, well, toasting, it is sitting on a shelf like it was a piece of art.
Would you be honored? I doubt it! You might want to know why your gifts weren’t being used very well. But then the couple might try to explain it to you. “No; it’s great! We needed to make sure this door stayed open, and the Blu-ray player worked perfectly! The toaster, well, it was just too pretty to actually use, so we put it on a shelf where we could really admire it. Thanks so much for your gifts!”
The story might be a bit far-fetched, but the point is clear. Gifts should be used for what they are. A Blu-ray player should be a Blu-ray player and show movies. A toaster should be a toaster and toast bread.
Think you’d never act like that newlywed couple? Think again. God has given us all gifts. In fact, he’s made us his gifts. So we need to be what he has made us. We need to live out what he has made us as Christians, as people filled with faith in him. Don’t waste his gifts. Don’t think you’re not important or that you don’t have a purpose in God’s kingdom. No; Christ has made you his gift to the church! Now be what you are!
We’re continuing our look at Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. This is a sermon that continually surprises you. The words are so familiar, but the meaning behind them is powerful and very real for us today. Today Jesus again surprises us by telling us what we are — or, rather, what he has made us.
Listen. You are the salt of the earth. (Matt. 5:13) Jesus spoke it nearly 2,000 years ago, but he might as well be saying it to you today. You are the salt of the earth. Before we get to what it actually means to be the salt of the earth, think about this: Jesus says you are the salt of the earth. Not “you should be.” Not “maybe someday you will be.” But you are. You already are the salt of the earth. So be what you are!
When we think of salt we think of a seasoning. We think of little salt-shakers like you’ll probably see sitting at your table at the lunch we’re having later today. We think of salty foods, or maybe even high blood pressure. Possibly, we might think of how salt melts ice, like how we put salt outside the doors this morning so none of you would fall as you came into church.
In Jesus’ time, though, it was different. Back then, salt was mainly a preservative. If you had fresh meat, you couldn’t just stick it in the freezer. And you certainly couldn’t just leave it out. It’d go bad very quickly. So you used salt. Salt keeps meat and other things from going bad. It prevents mold and bacteria from ruining meat. And because meat tended to be expensive and hard to come by back then, salt was a very valuable item.
So Jesus was saying a good thing here. You are the salt of the earth. But how exactly are we the salt of the earth? How do we preserve the earth? As you keep reading through this section, it becomes pretty clear. This whole world is in a state of decay. Left on its own, this earth and the sinful people on it will rot away spiritually and eternally in their sins.
Not everyone stays salty, though. Jesus went on, But if salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. (Matt. 5:13) In the everyday world, salt doesn’t lose its saltiness. But what if it did? What would you do with it? It’d be a hunk of rock. All you can do is pave roads with it.
You’re not just salt; you’re light. Jesus made you light. Of course, Jesus called himself the Light of the world, too. He said, I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. (John 8:12) Jesus brought his light to this sin-darkened world, and in his light he has given us life.
On our own there is no hope. We can do nothing to change this. But we have a Savior who did everything for us. Listen to what else he said here in our text. Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matt. 5:17) Everything written in God’s Word, Jesus fulfilled. He fulfilled all God’s commandments. He never sinned. He was sinless. For you. He didn’t deserve to die, but he did. On the cross. For you. For me. Our good works don’t save us; Jesus already did. He has rescued us from our sins; he’s given us life out of death, and he has given us the salvation he won instead of the damnation we deserve.