Matthew: Jesus’ Teachings: The Responsibility Of Believers

Memory Verse: Matthew 5:16

5:13 The Responsibility Of Believers As Salt

  • 5:13a Jesus teaches His disciples true happiness comes from being a follower of Him and describes the characteristics of such a person. He makes the final characteristic about being persecuted personal for the disciples. He tells them that they will be persecuted for following Him, similar to the men of God before them. Then He continues teaching them, using a metaphor saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” Salt was an important commodity in Jesus’ day. It was used to preserve meat and enhance the flavor in food. They would even use salt as money or as a type of payment. Jesus is using it here as a metaphor. The salt represents the function of a believer’s responsibility and the earth represents the people of the world. Lets look at two ways salt can function and make some applications:
  • Preservative: Salt was the main preservative of that time. There was no refrigeration to keep meat good, therefore, in a desert climate like theirs, they would use salt to preserve the meat. The goal of preserving something is to keep is from decaying. Therefore, as believers our goal is to preserve the works and word of God. We are to be the preservers of good and truth in our society. Through our examples, we keep truth from decaying and people from spoiling their lives. Also, in the context of the disciples impending persecution, the metaphor could have encouraged them to persevere—to continue living out their faith and preaching the gospel even in the face of difficulty or danger.
  • Seasoner: At that time, salt was also use as a food enhancer, just like it is today. We add salt as a seasoning to food so that it taste better, giving it a more bold flavor, thus improving a dish. Things that don’t have salt are often bland or without much taste. Therefore, as believers, our goal is to enhance the lives of others through the works and word of God.
  • 5:13b “Of the earth”—We are to act as “salt” in the earth. We are to live out this metaphor among the unbelievers around us. We live in a world corrupted by sin. We live in a world where lies and false teaching are abundant. We live in a world where people are looking for something more for their bland existence. We are given the responsibility to be the “truth preservers” and “ life enhancers” in their midst. We have the gospel and the gospel changes everything.
  • 5:13c Salt is only good if it salty. If salt every lost its taste, then it wouldn’t be good for anything. Pure salt as we know it can’t loose its flavor or effectiveness, but the salt they used wasn’t pure thus it was possible for that type of salt’s “saltiness” to be drained away. If this happened, it wouldn’t have any taste, therefore it couldn’t enhance food, and it would also fail to preserve food. Once salt has lost its saltiness, you can’t put it back in. The only thing it would be good for would be to throw it down on footpaths to be trodden under the foot of men. Therefore, our responsibility as believers to act as “salt” in the world is only good when we live it out in the society around us. We can only live it out if we are salty. Our “saltiness” comes from God. As we read His Word it transforms our minds and we are no longer conformed to this world. As disciples of Jesus, and through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are willing to forsake all, endure persecution and live as peacemakers in the world. We have a responsibility.
    Mark 9:50; Luke 14:34-35; Matthew 5:9; Colossians 3:16-17; Romans 12:1-2

5:14-16 The Responsibility Of Believers As Light

  • 5:14a Jesus uses another metaphor to further explain the responsibility of believers. He tells his disciples, “You are the light of the world.” Jesus is teaching His disciples an important lesson. In the Gospel of John, He tells them that as long as He is in the world, He is the light of the world. Therefore, they are to learn from Him what this means, because when He leaves them, it will be their responsibility to be the light. Just like light allows us to see and makes things visible, Jesus makes God visible to us through his works and proclamation, even to the point of death. We are to walk in His footsteps.
    John 8:12; 9:5; 12:35-36
  • 5:14b “Of the world”—We are to act as “light” in the world. We are to live out this metaphor among the unbelievers around us. Light is needed in a dark place. Our world is darkened by sin. Just like you and I were before we were saved, the people of the world are blinded to the truth because they live in darkness. It is our responsibility as believers to shine the light of the gospel so that they can see the truth and be saved.
  • 5:14c “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid”—Jesus is teaching His disciples that their responsibility as “light” means they are to have a public ministry and testimony. How can you hide a city that was built on a hill? You can’t. That is the point. How can we hide the gospel that radical changed our lives? We can’t. Our lives, everything we say and do, is a public witness to the God we believe in. The lifestyle of a believer should obviously be different from the lifestyle of unbelievers. We are light—that means we are made to shine into the darkness.
  • 5:15 People don’t light a candle and then put it under a bushel. They put it on a candlestick so that it can give light to everyone in the house. Jesus uses this example to show that light is meant to shine. It would defeat the purpose to light a candle and them place it unto something to keep the light from shining or to extinguish it. Its purpose is to illuminate. Therefore, Jesus is telling his disciples their purpose and responsibility is to give light. Just like John that Baptist, we are called to bear witness of Jesus (the Light), that all men through our witness might believe. If people are going to be illuminated to the truth, then we have to bear the light for all to see. We were saved for this.
    John 1:1-10
  • 5:16 Jesus then clearly applies His metaphor and says, “Let your light so shine before men.” Every believer is to live boldly and openly before unbelievers. This means that we are (1) aware that those around us are watching us and they know what our works are like (wether good or bad), therefore, we will (2) intentionally live out our good works, not so we can receive praise like the Pharisees, but so that they will glorify our Father in heaven. Before we lived in darkness and our actions were characteristic of that, but now we are in the light and our actions should be characteristic of it. This marvelous Light has changed our lives and we no longer fear but are freed to face the darkness with the glorious light of the gospel, proclaiming the wonderful message of salvation in word and deed.
    Ephesians 5:8-9; Philippians 2:14-15; Psalm 27:1; 1 Peter 2:9, 12

Review Questions

  • Jesus said we are the what of the earth?
  • What are its functions?
  • What makes it useless?
  • Jesus also said we are the what of the world?
  • What is its main characteristic? Should it be hidden?

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