Blessing Others and Blessing God: Matthew 5:13-16 (Sermon)
Blessing Others & Blessing God
Right here is a thing of salt and light. Jesus uses ordinary objects to make extraordinary points. Pastor Mike and Jeff talked about them last week. So I am going to circle back today and reinforce what they said.
Let’s read for ourselves Jesus’s message. We will be in Matthew chapter 5, verses 13 through 16. SHC: I have asked A.S. to read for us. CCC: pastor Mike has asked T.B. to read for us. You can come up here now. Would you please stand with me in honor of God’s Word?
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. (Matthew 5:13–16)
Let’s pray. Dear God, help us to understand your Word. You say we are salt and light. Who are we that we should be called such? Teach us what it looks like to be salt and light for your glory. We pray this in Jesus’s name, amen. You may be seated.
We are continuing our series in Matthew. He has established who Jesus is in chapters 1 through 3. He is the ancestor of David and Abraham. He is the coming King and Messiah who will save his people from their sins. Not only that, he is Immanuel, God with us. The Father from heaven said he is his beloved Son. In chapter 4, Jesus ministered for the first time. He preached repentance and the coming heavenly kingdom and performed miracles. Crowds gathered from all over. Jesus brought light to the darkness. He picked out four disciples to follow him. They left everything and obeyed. Then, in chapter 5, the crowds and disciples separated. Jesus went up to a mountainside, sat down, and began to teach the most famous message ever, the Sermon on the Mount. He explained to his disciples what it meant to follow him into his kingdom. He began with a word of blessing. He said the people who are blessed are not the typical people we would think. They are meek, sorrowful, hungering, and thirsting for righteousness, peacemakers, pure in heart, and persecuted. These blessed people highlight the importance of the heart of the follower of Jesus. They mark the person as dependent on God.
Then in verses 13 through 16, Jesus brings up these objects: salt and light. They describe how his followers impact the world. As God blesses his followers, we see those followers, in turn, bless others so that those blessed might praise God.
His followers exist to follow, to do good work, and to bless as they have been blessed. This fits Jesus’s earlier message about being meek. His disciples’ lives are testimonies of God’s grace to a watching world. The melodic line of this passage, if you are taking notes, is
Be a blessing so others may bless God.
The text breaks down into two sections, one on salt in verse 13 and one on the light in verses 14 through 16. In both sections, Jesus mentions a barrier between salt being salty and light shining. He concludes with a brief statement that shining and presumably being salty is about what we do and people praising God. Here is the structure. I am going to walk through these verses.
5:13a You are salt
5:13b If saltiness loses saltiness, it has lost all value
5:14a You are light
5:14b-15 People don’t hide light
5:16a Therefore, let your light shine
5:16b That people see your good deeds
5:16c And praise God
Let’s talk about salt. Salt is a flavor enhancer. Perhaps, that is part of what Jesus was getting at. Where does saltiness come from? It comes from God. So, do people experience God in us? What is it like to be around us? Would people see God in how we act or speak as a church?
Salt can also be a preservative. In India, we also went to the fish market. [Picture] They had dried out fish and used salt to preserve the fish. They don’t have refrigeration as available as we do. In Jesus’s day, there was no refrigeration available. Without salt, the meat begins to rot. Salt preserves things. Jesus made the point that his disciples were a blessing to others like salt.
What does salt look like? Look at Colossians 4:6:
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).
We bless those around us in how we speak. We can be encouraging, helpful, comforting, kind, compassionate, wise, gracious, and discerning. Is that what the world is like these days? I don’t think so. The spirit of the world is the opposite. Right? However, as followers of Jesus, we have the Holy Spirit. What is he like? He is loving, kind, patient, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled. Which Spirit do we want coming out of us? Let our speech and actions flow out of the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be salty in that way. Let’s bless others and enhance our community with how we behave church.
Last week, the thought came to me, "Our actions had more of an impact than I often realize." For example, I sinned in some way during the day. That led to restlessness. Restlessness led to a lack of sleep. That lack of sleep led to less energy later in the day. Lack of energy led to impatience, irritability, lack of self-control, selfishness, and other sins. Soon one little sin metastasized into a plague of other sins. This is the opposite of saltiness and following Jesus. Then I thought, this ripple effect works the opposite as well. One little deed of righteousness, a kind word, a thoughtful act, and prayer can result in exponential good.
Here is an example. President Woodrow Wilson told the story of being in a barbershop one day.
“I was sitting in a barber chair when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic service, because Mr. D.L. Moody was in that chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.” (Matthew 1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary Chicago: Moody Press)
What is our speech like? Is it salty or sour? Woodrow Wilson observed that the room had an air of worship because of Moody. So I would gather Moody was salt in a world that was rotting away.
Jesus invites us to join him and his disciples. It is not for ourselves that we are Christians. He has us where we are for others’ benefit and God’s credit.
Too often, we can get all worked up about how bad society is. I listened to one person on the radio this week and got all riled up. Has that ever happened to you? We shouldn’t be shocked at how the world is. The Bible says the days are evil. I don’t think things have changed.
John Stott once wrote,
“And when society does go bad, we Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything else. The real question to ask is: where is the salt?” (Stott, John: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: 1978, Intervarsity Press)
Where is the salt? Where are we? This passage calls us to
Be a blessing so others may bless God.
That is our wonderful calling. If this point was not clear enough, Jesus clarified it with a second metaphor.
Look at verse 14. You are not just salt, but you are light. I find it humbling to be light. Who else is light? [Jesus] He said,
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12).
Isn’t that amazing? We don’t have to jump over to John to know this. Matthew already told us that Jesus was a light to the Gentiles. The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light; his name was Jesus. In verse 14, Jesus told his followers that they were light. We can join them and shine the light in a dark world. They are salt, and they are light.
SUN AND MOON
I read this week that we are like the moon. We reflect the light of the Sun. We don’t generate the morning; we reflect it. Isn’t that humbling? Isn’t that amazing? When we follow Jesus, we get to be a window into who he is. We are a mirror of his grace and mercy, and kindness.
Paul put it this way,
Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;
perplexed, but not driven to despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down, but not destroyed;
always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (2 Co 4:1–10)
You carry the light of Christ, followers.
SHINING LIKE MOSES
In high school, I read about Moses going into the Holies of Holies, that special place in the Tabernacle where the Ark of the Covenant was. When he came out, his face shone with the glory of the Lord. It was so bright that he had to cover his face. My friend Jonathan and I would meet and pray. I told him about Moses, and we prayed. I prayed that my face would shine like Moses. It didn’t. I wondered if I would leave his room and his mother would see something different. She didn’t. And I thought, what if when I woke the next day, perhaps I would have a special aura about me when I walked into the kitchen for breakfast or I looked in the bathroom mirror? Nope. My dog, parents, and siblings didn’t notice anything different. Friends, I had a light in me all along. It was the light of Christ. It was the Spirit of Jesus that dwelled in me. The veil that separated people from God has been torn down. Now he is among us every time we gather together. People might not be able to see it, but the salt and light are there.
Be a blessing so others may bless God.
We are his ambassadors. We exist to let his light shine through us.
What does that look like? When we talk about the speech, we can season our speech with salt. Philippians chapter 2 also talks about shining regarding our speech.
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life. (Philippians 2:12–16)
The reality is that the darker our world gets, the brighter our light shines. When the culture looks Christian, it is hard to tell who is following Jesus. [light a match] However, our light will shine brighter when things look bleak.
MOTIVATION TO SHINE
What motivates us to be salt and shine the light? Here are three reasons:
Well, first of all, God tells us to.
Secondly, I would say understanding what God has done for us. He blessed us, so out of gratitude, we would want to share that blessing too. He sent his one and only Son Jesus to live a perfect life and die a sinner’s death. He gave himself up for us. He forgives us our sins. He treats us better than we deserve. He calls us to follow him. He calls us friends. He calls us family, even though we live like enemies. We must remember the blessings God has given us.
Third, a motivation to bless others is knowing that God is the one who made us for this purpose. We live out of our life purpose when we are salt and light.
The Bible says,
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8–10)
We were made to shine. Friends, you have gifts, talents, and opportunities no one else has. God wants you to join him on a journey and do what you were made to do and say what you were empowered to say. Isn’t that amazing? Out of being loved, we can love. Out of blessing, we bless. God made us salt and light. God created us to serve. He blessed us that we would bless others.
Be a blessing so others may bless God.
Paul repeats this message in Ephesians, in chapter 5.
Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not become partners with them; for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true). (Ephesians 5:1–9)
You are children of light. How would Jesus have us respond this morning to the verses we read? Let me encourage us to:
Be a blessing so others may bless God.
Where do we start? Come back Sunday, the following Sunday, and the following Sunday. We are going to be exploring what following Jesus looks like. So, where do we start today? Here are a few suggestions:
Be open - That means having the space, availability, margin, and flexibility for God to use you to bless others.
Be aware - God might interrupt your day to use you to bless others. He prepared these good works in advance. Find them.
Be obedient - embrace the calling God has placed on your life. You are salt and light. Follow Jesus’s example. Serve others. Do good. Bless.
Jesus invites us to follow him and be a blessing that people would bless God. They might give you credit and point them to God. If you remember last week, they might not praise God. Instead, they may slander you. They may persecute you. So what? Don’t let that stop you. Serve all the more.
LATIMER AND RIDLEY
On October 16, 1555, the seventy-year-old pastor Hugh Latimer and the fifty-year-old pastor Nicolas Ridley were brought to an Oxford street. They had been serving the Lord and would not comply with the Catholic magistrates. First, bags of gunpowder were tied around their necks. Next, they were tied to a stake. Finally, wood was piled around them, and they were told to recant their faith or burn to death. They didn’t. Instead, Latimer said to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley, and play the man; we shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as shall never be put out.” After that, they went up in flames. This testimony of their faithfulness to following Jesus gives light to the world still. They let the light of Christ shine. God wants us to be salt and light. People may praise God, or they may persecute. Let us rejoice and be glad, for yours is the Kingdom of Heaven. So, be open, aware, and obedient.
If you are not yet a follower of Jesus. He is inviting you to follow. Why not say yes to him?” He is the true light of the world. In him is no darkness of all. In his light, we see something that is incredible, God. He came to save us from our sins. He loves with an unending, never failing love. There is no hope. In him, there is mercy and grace. He is the King, and we are following him into his kingdom. Will you join us?