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.
Over the last several years I’ve read a number of books that have, in various ways, touched on the issue of being salt and light in our communities and the world, whether it’s overseas missions, supporting NGOs that are assisting the poor, or serving your community in practical ways. This is important stuff to be thinking about. (Heck, I even wrote a book on it!)
We, in all honesty, need to be thinking about how we can be a faithful witness for Christ every day—and then finding ways to do it.
Without losing our saltiness in the process.
One of the things that’s been particularly interesting as I’ve been reading books like Outlive Your Life (reviewed here), The Hole in Our Gospel (reviewed here), stuff by Francis Chan and even Radical by David Platt (and again) is the real challenge that exists in not turning caring for the poor or overseas missions or having more greater explosive spiritual experiences into a means of justification.
In other words, it’s really, really hard for us to keep straight the gospel and it’s ramifications.
This is, to some degree, what we see when we’re warned about losing our saltiness.
In social justice circles, there’s a lot of work that’s motivated by faith in Christ—but that’s the only place Christ has. Motivation.
His name is not spoken. His greatness is not proclaimed.
“Preach the gospel always, if necessary use words” is the rallying cry.
And we are, ultimately, only left having done good deeds.
I know how hard this is.
I write for a Christian charity, and it’s always difficult to keep the message on track—to keep the gospel the focus, rather than making supporters superheroes or turning children into statistics because that might “sell” better than saying, “we do what we do because we want kids to meet Jesus.”
And I don’t want to sound like I’m slagging other folks who are doing tremendous work, but we have to remember:
Doing good things is not the gospel. And doing good deeds is not being a witness to the gospel, either.
We witness to the gospel when we share the good news of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection—and let our good works serve as a response to that.
Then, people may “see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
But that’s the goal. If we are to be salt and light, then we have to know the gospel.
We have to embrace the gospel.
We need to be transformed by the gospel.
And we need to proclaim the gospel.
Good works are good, but they’re not the gospel.
When we get the gospel wrong, everything else goes wrong with it. But if we get the gospel right, it’s a glorious thing indeed.
An earlier version of this post was published in September, 2010.