A Moment with the Bible
Immediately after saying, “You are salt,” Jesus uses a second figure and says, “You are light.” Salt preserves and flavors, changing the nature of the recipient. Light points the way so that a person does not stumble or become lost. Under the category of light, Jesus uses two figures: a city set on a hill and a lamp. A city indicates the force of many lights giving off a beacon that can be seen from a great distance. Together, Christians offer a greater influence than if they only did their work as individuals. A city set on a hill cannot be hid and yet many local churches are unknown by the residents of their own community. A church must not forget that it does not exist to simply comfort the saved, but to be a light to those who are lost.
The picture of a lamp is intended to show something that no one would do. Who would light a lamp and then cover it up? The Lord has created us as lamps reflecting His light. We will have done the very opposite of our purpose if we hide our light. But how many Christians work closely with coworkers and friends without them ever knowing that there is a light among them? A Christian who thinks he is a light without ever opening his mouth is badly mistaken. Peter states, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1 Pet. 2:9).
Most importantly, notice the words of verse 16: “Let your light so shine…” Here is the goal of being salt and light. We are to live in such a manner that our influence will cause others to “glorify your Father in heaven.” Christian, are you thinking about how your actions and words are seen by those around you? How easily and quickly we can forget our purpose when we are overwhelmed by the stress of our daily grind! Thus Paul states, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one” (Col. 4:5-6).
A Moment with the Bible
The strength of the kingdom of heaven is first found in the character of its citizens. We have seen that in the beatitudes. But that is not the only power of the kingdom. The power of the kingdom is also seen in its influence. “You are salt,” Jesus said. In a world filled with corruption, kingdom citizens are present in order to stop the spoilage and bring true spiritual flavor to the lives of men and women around them.
For salt to be worth anything it must have potency. In Luke 14:33-34, Jesus explained how a Christian maintains potency: “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” We maintain our potency by the fact that we are willing to sacrifice everything to serve the Lord. Here is the critical difference between a kingdom citizen and the “common” religious person. Good morals will not differentiate us from people in the religious world. But a true disciple of Christ stands out and draws people to the Lord because he is radical in the cost he will pay in his life to put the kingdom of God first. Christians who will put their own comforts before the Lord’s work have lost their flavor; they have no influence.
Next, for salt to be worth anything it must touch that which it intends to influence. Salt that “touches” will actually change the nature of what it contacts. Many Christians avoid unbelievers. They do not like to be around them nor do they have any intention of making a sinner their friend. But salt that is left in the container has no value for its intended use. We must get the salt out of the shaker. We must touch the lives of a corrupt and flavorless world if there is ever to be a change. If we stay inside our houses and never invite a sinner to share our lives, we are of no use to the Lord. Jesus ate with the tax collectors and sinners because they were the ones who needed the salt. The one accusation made of Jesus that was true was that He was a friend of sinners (Luke 7:34). A kingdom citizen will go and do likewise.
A Moment with the Bible
Up to this point we have seen seven beatitudes; seven character traits of a kingdom citizen. The eighth is actually a double blessedness. “Blessed” is stated twice in order to indicate abundance. When one adds this in with all the rest he has come to the ultimate state of joy.
It sounds odd to say that joy could come out of persecution. It makes no sense to our human minds. But Paul explained it well when he said, “We are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh” (2 Cor. 4:10). There is no greater joy than to know that you have given your life up so that others will see Jesus in you and be saved. It is the essence of living like Jesus lived and then experiencing the same things He experienced.
However, do not misunderstand. Jesus is not suggesting we go out and find a way to get persecuted. Paul avoided persecution when possible. No, the idea is that we are not ashamed of Him and we are not ashamed of His words. No matter how the teachings of Christ are contrary to our society, we must continue to proclaim them and insist that this is the only way to salvation. When we do that, persecution will follow. It may simply come in the form of “men falsely saying all kinds of evil against you,” or it may have to do with physical suffering. Either way, when a Christian is maligned even though he has truly presented himself with the meekness of Christ, he has reason to rejoice. He has walked in the footsteps of Jesus and his reward will be great in heaven.
By the way, are you ever persecuted for the sake of righteousness? If not, be concerned. The reason may be because you are compromising with the world. Paul said, “Yes and all who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Tim. 3:12). A true kingdom citizen will not be able to escape persecution because his life will eventually clash with the ways of the world.
A Moment with the Bible
The religion of Christ is based on truth. Jesus said, “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). Therefore truth, and especially knowledge of the truth, is critical to a child of God. But knowledge, though necessary, also has its dangerous side. Paul said, “Knowledge puffs up, love edifies.” In other words, a person can be doctrinally right, but if he does not use his knowledge in love, he has allowed his knowledge to lead him to arrogance. What good is knowledge unless it is used for the benefit and salvation of another?
When Jesus says, “Blessed are the peacemakers,” he challenges us to go beyond simply being “right.” We cannot make peace at the cost of truth, but as far as it depends on us we must live peaceably with all men (Rom. 12:18). Many so-called Christians relish a fight. They love to win an argument and show people where they are wrong. They will go so far as to instigate divisions within churches, all the while claiming that they are “contending for the faith.” Even if it were proven that they knew the truth perfectly, is everyone else supposed to have grown to their level of “perfect knowledge” as quickly as they have? Where is the patience? Where is the love? Where is the attempt to resolve differences peaceably? And what makes you so sure you have the perfect truth? Such individuals are not contending for the faith but insisting on their own way and requiring everyone around them to conform to their personal standards.
Psalm 133:1 states, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” A peacemaker will do all in his or her power to make that happen. It will bring one to become like God and be called a child of God. Without being a peacemaker, we cannot live a life of blessedness.
A Moment with the Bible
One of the most unique principles concerning the religion of Christ is the fact that the Lord is not just concerned with a person’s actions. Jesus is primarily concerned with how we think. Just because our outward actions are in line with proper moral behavior, does not mean we are right with God. When the southern kingdom of Judah went into Babylonian captivity, they left their idols behind. However, God through Ezekiel still condemned them because they had “set up their idols in their hearts” (Eze. 14:3). It is easy for a person to argue that he or she is not committing outward, visible sins. But that is not all there is to serving the Lord. There are sins of the heart; sins that go far deeper than, “You shall not….”
Jesus now speaks of the blessedness that is found in the person who is pure in heart. This is arguably the most challenging of all the beatitudes. “Pure” means, clean, unmixed, unadulterated, unalloyed.” A kingdom citizen will strive diligently to maintain a clean mind. We live in a world filled with filth. It attacks us from every angle. Impurities of the heart may first be understood as moral sins. We are challenged by it in the grocery store line, on TV, and in the movies. A carnal person will give in to it and claim that it is hopeless to maintain a pure heart. Indeed, if we are not careful about what we allow our eyes to see and what we allow our minds to dwell on, there is no possible way of having a pure heart. But if we will do as Paul commanded and fill our minds with things that are “true, honorable, just, pure, pleasing, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise,” the result will be a pure heart (Phil. 4:8). Purity of heart is also realized in how we think of others. Judgmental, bitter attitudes will never attain to a pure heart. And what about the love of possessions? These also create a double-minded man.
However, instead of focusing on how difficult this challenge is, we should be motivated to purity of heart because of its incomparable benefits. An impure mind is restless, perverted, and unfulfilled. There is no contentment, and certainly no blessedness.