Salt and Light
You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty [again]? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
~ Matthew 5:13
We see the image of light throughout the Bible, from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. God’s first words in the Bible are, “Let there be light.”Christ’s last words in the last chapter of the Bible are, “I am . . . the bright Morning Star.” We live in darkness if we do not know God and have not heard God’s Word, and believed it. We do not know God because we see Him; we know God because He enables us to see. As C. S. Lewis put it, “I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen: not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”
But we must be careful, as with any metaphor, not to take the notion of light too literally. When we talk about the light of God, we are not actually talking about the physical act of vision, nor even the broader notion of our array of sensory equipment. The light of God is not visible. We experience an invisible God in our invisible Spirit. Just as the visible light of the sun allows us to see trees and fingernails, the invisible light of God allows us to see truths that we would not otherwise know.
“Light, light, the visible reminder of invisible light.” (T. S. Eliot, from Choruses from the Rock) That’s the mark of a great poet: Eliot says it better in eight words than I can in 800.
The quote about salt, from the Sermon on the Mount, is a bit harder to follow. It is somewhat dated; salt has nowhere near the importance today that it did in ancient times, before refrigeration, before tin cans and Mason jars. But even today, the only significance of salt is that it is salty. If that tablespoon of white crystals that comes out of your Morton’s package isn’t salty, you’ll throw it away. It looks and feels just the same, but it is worthless.
Salt and the “invisible light” share a close connection. People are metaphorically a pile of white crystals. They become “salty” if and when they perceive the invisible light of God. A person who knows God cannot be distinguished from a person who does not except by one thing: He witnesses (honestly) to the light. Mrs. X and Mrs. Y may look the same, talk the same, smell the same, even do the same good deeds and be faithful to their husbands. But if Mrs. X witnesses to Christ, and Mrs. Y does not, Mrs. Y becomes the precise person whom Christ is talking about when he says she has “lost her saltiness.”
When we witness to Christ, we become something special. Like a spoonful of salt in a bowl of stew, or a measure of yeast in a gallon of bread dough, we transform the world around us. This is God’s plan for us. We should give to the poor; but many atheists give to the poor. We must give to the poor in the name of Christ and to His glory, not to our own credit and not simply because it is right. People are not blind to God; they only have their eyes closed, because they do not understand that the light exists. And if we, in our entire lives, convince one person to open his eyes — or if we never convince even one person, but die trying — our lives have enormous meaning.
Lord, let me always remember that I am your witness. Amen.
~ Mason Barge
Editor, Daily Prayer