Matthew Chapter 5 – Salt and Light, and Jesus and the Law

SALT AND LIGHT

What does being the salt of the earth mean?  I guess that it means we are a positive element. We have spice, flavor. Salt was valuable in the time of Christ.  It also preserves.  If salt loses its flavor, it is no longer valuable. My take from this passage is that we have something positive to offer.  Whatever that is, it is our duty to offer it and to live up to the challenge.  By salt losing its flavor, I think that is something that can happen quite often.  If we don’t work at our faith, if we don’t challenge ourselves every day to live as though we are the salt of the earth, we will fail.  We are faced with so many temptations every day.  We trip up every day.  So we have to cling to our faith – we have to actively keep strong by reading God’s word, prayer and remembering that we are valuable to the kingdom.  Salt loses its taste; faith wanes.  We have to be careful not to let our faith fade into nothing.  Accepting Jesus as our Lord and Savior gets us into heaven, but living like we believe it blesses out lives, blesses the lives of others, and gets many more people into heaven.  Our faith isn’t supposed to just exist.  We aren’t born, and then our parents say “well they are born, we did our job…”  No – we continue to grow as human beings.  It takes work and living intentionally – the same is true when we are born again.  We don’t just live as though were were saved on such and such date when we accepted Jesus – we live and grow in our faith every day.  We serve our God, we challenge ourselves to grow and we challenge others to grow.  

Next Jesus tell is that we are the light of the world.  A city on a hill. Our faith needs to be seen, it needs to be obvious, not hidden.  I remember a pastor once saying he would occasionally visit a person at their workplace for lunch or for a meeting, and one time a person’s coworker remarked “oh, you go to church?”  The fact that we are Christians should not surprise anyone, it should be evident.  People should know who we are and where we stand by our actions.  

What does light look like?  A light should attract people.  It doesn’t mean we are saying “we are highly moral and you need to be like us.”  The light should reflect our joy of being welcomed into the family of God.  It should reflect the love of Jesus.  Jesus was perfect, we should strive to be like Him in that regard, but He was also loving and forgiving.  He was a healer, He was a servant, He was a teacher.  Jesus was so much to so many.  Our good deeds mean doing the right thing, being as good as we can, it also means helping, loving, forgiving. It means being joyful and at peace so that people will ask why, and you can then tell them that it is because you have Jesus in your life.

JESUS AND THE LAW

If you are from New Orleans and you are familiar with our history, you may know that we were founded in 1718.  However, much of the architecture in the French Quarter is from the 1790s.  Why?  There were 2 fires in the French Quarter in the 1700s.  One of those fires was on Good Friday, and the Quarter burned down because they were not allowed to ring bells on Good Friday, so no fire alarm was sounded until it was too late.  This is an example of legalism – following the law to a “T” no matter what the situation may be. 

In this passage, Jesus talks about the law, and what it really means.  He talks about His relationship to the law.  Jesus said He is not here to abolish the law, but to fulfill it.  What does this mean?  First of all, none of us can keep the entire law no matter how hard we try.  None of us are perfect.  Jesus, however, was and is perfect, and He keeps the law perfectly.  The Pharisees relied on the law, on what we call legalism.  You must atone at certain times, you must worship at certain times, you must sacrifice certain specific items – all which is in our Old Testament.  Working on the Sabbath was forbidden. Additionally, there were the 10 commandments.  Do you know the 10 commandments?  How easy it is for you to keep all of them?  Go to Exodus 20:1-21 to review them.  Do we still keep all of those laws?  Since Jesus paid the penalty for our sins, we no longer have to sacrifice lambs.  I think a lot of people where clothes that consist of blended materials. Many of us eat pork and shellfish.  Very few people pay attention to all of the detailed rules in the Old Testament, but they were still quite active in the time that Jesus was on earth.  Most of the laws in the book of Leviticus would be impossible to keep these days, although some people do try.  

We are expected to keep the 10 commandments, however.  The 10 commandments are not outdated.  Can we keep all 10 commandments on our own 24 hours per day?  No.  None of us are perfect.  Jesus is perfect, and it took a perfect lamb to atone for our sins, since it is impossible for us to completely obey the law and the commandments.   

This doesn’t mean we don’t have to obey the commandments anymore.  On the contrary, we are always supposed to try. However, instead of obeying the law because it’s the law, and instead of obeying the letter of the law, we must carry those commandments and God’s will for our lives in our hearts. We obey in order to honor the character of God, not because it’s written on paper or someone says to do it.  We obey because we love God.

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