“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.”
This passage comes right on the heels of “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you.”
I don’t think that’s a coincidence.
It’s often easy for us – especially if we’ve grown up in the church and are already familiar with a passage, to accept the separations of chapters and verses and miss the broader context and flow of meaning. But Jesus’ sermon wasn’t a random hodge-podge of various topics.
So why did He go from a discourse on the blessings of persecution to suddenly talking metaphors of light and dark?
I believe there is a connection. Having revealed who is truly blessed in this Kingdom of Heaven, and having laid out in the open the difficult cost of following Him, Jesus then urges us to do what’s right in spite of the cost.
You are the salt of the earth. You preserve it; you make the world a better place. But if you lose your flavor – if you fail to stand in spite of persecution, if you turn back from following Him – then how shall you be seasoned? You were shown the good, and you turned away from it. You’re good for nothing now! You can’t help the world when you have forsaken the One who helps you. You, who once saw, have now become the blind leading the blind.
You are the light of the world. If you know truth, you stand apart in a sea of lies. “The path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the perfect day” (Prov. 4:18). “He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday” (Psa. 37:6).
He’s telling you that if you truly follow Him, you will stand out. There’s no hiding a city on a hill, no not noticing the light in the darkness. Remember “blessed are those who are persecuted for My Name’s Sake?” Don’t worry about the persecution – let your light shine brightly before men, in spite of the threats. Pray that others will notice the light, be drawn to it, and become light themselves, glorifying your Father in heaven.
“. . . become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life . . . ”