You Are the Salt and Light

Salt, light, trampling, bushel baskets, cities, hills, mockery, persecution, lies. Believe it or not, these are all pieces to a puzzle that, when properly assembled, clearly reveals this picture: God loves those of the world that have turned away from Him and He wants us to help Him get them back. (And by the way, our participation isn’t optional.)

“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)

Jesus taught that great rewards come to those who follow Him. He also taught how we could tell we were getting the ‘follow Him’ part right. His teaching on the subject contains a whole list of objects and indicators – salt, light, trampling, bushel baskets, cities, hills, mockery, persecution, lies. A proper understanding of this confusing stack of stuff reveals fundamental underlying principles. To help navigate through all of this, we’ll hijack two of Newton’s Laws of Motion (anyone remember these from science class?) and repurpose them as “YouTruth Laws of Spiritual Motion.”

Jesus taught us that once saved, we assume a vital role in a great ‘redirection project’ for the world. The bottom line: Those of the world are heading in the wrong direction. God loves them and desperately wants them to turn to Him. (It’s important to remember that those redeemed by Jesus once belonged to this group.) We are to help turn them around (see Matthew 28:19). How to do it and how to know you’re getting it right is the core of Jesus’ teaching in our passage. In it He tells us to bright and salty. Let’s start to dissect and understand His teaching by rolling out our first principle:

The First YouTruth Law of Spiritual Motion

The world, in a state of uniform motion away from God, tends to remain in that state of motion unless an external force is applied to it.

Jesus used two examples to illustrate how this spiritual law works—salt and light. The proper use of these items is akin to applying an external force, influencing and changing that to which it is applied.


Salt was used as a seasoning in biblical times as it is today. Salt was also used as a preservative. In order to change the taste of unseasoned food, salt must have flavor. In order to halt the steady decay of meats, salt must be ‘salty.’ In both uses, ‘salty salt’ makes a difference. It turns things around. It’s qualities slow decay or give bland food pizzazz. It is an external ingredient that, when applied, undoubtedly changes that which it touches.  Once salt has lost its flavor it becomes useless for either purpose. Such ‘used up’ salt was used in biblical times to cover walkways and roadways, much like gravel might be used today. Thus Jesus described it as ‘trampled by men.’


In order to change darkness into ‘lightness’, a force that is fundamentally different must be applied. Simply put, light is the opposite of darkness and therefore qualifies, but when covered by a bushel basket, would lose its differentiating quality from darkness and would thus have no effect on it. Unencumbered light, as with the lights of a city upon a hill on a dark night, makes such a difference that it can be seen for miles.

We are to be like these things. We must make a difference. Our presence, words, and deeds, must be markedly different. They must, as the law states, be external. They must come, not from the world, but from God. Then, and only then, can they turn people of the world, heading in the wrong direction, around. How do we know when we’re getting it right? How do we know, when we are sufficiently ‘bright and salty’, letting God direct our actions and our testimony? Let’s look at our next principle:

The Second YouTruth Law of Spiritual Motion (see Matthew 5:11)

For every godly action, there is an opposite worldly reaction.

Many will wrongly expect the world to receive our testimony with open arms, willing acceptance, and maybe even applause and accolades. While some will embrace the message, there will always be those who don’t.  You see, the world likes the direction it is going. A life of material self-focus is very comfortable and fully acceptable to those who don’t know that God has something far greater for them. And the world will fight to protect these comfortably ways. When we follow Jesus, the world will press against us. There will be opposition at every turn. This opposition will often be unpleasant and sometimes downright nasty. People will mock us. People will tell lies about us. We will face persecution. When this happens, Jesus says to receive it with joy! Why? Because the 2nd Law instructs that we are not on the right path, we are not heading in the right direction, we are not following Jesus if we are not facing these consequences. If we are not facing opposition, we are not on the path to the great reward Jesus promises! It is Jesus’ great reward, and only Jesus’ great reward, that can bring us true joy. As it turns out, mockery, lies, and persecution are exactly the assurance we are looking for. And the world unwittingly provides it.

Jesus was no passive teacher on this point. (see Hebrews 12:1-3) He led by example. He died a shameful, agonizing death on the cross because of the joy He knew would be His for having done so. There are many other examples of faithful people that faced worldly opposition too. Prophets, apostles, and countless others who were simple, average folks like us, were beaten, ostracized, even killed. These predecessors form a ‘great cloud of witnesses’ that surround us everywhere, every minute of every day, especially when we are facing opposition ourselves. They remind us of the joy of the prize and to not lose hope or grow weary (see Hebrews 11:1 – 12:1). That’s the truth.

You are the salt of the earth. So you are called to be salty! You are the light of the world. So you are called to let your light shine! You are called to be the external force that turns the direction of the world around. You will face opposition. When you do, receive it with all joy! It is the assurance that you are on the road to great reward in heaven!

 That’s the YouTruth – You Are the Salt and Light.

If You Have Not Love

Did you ever think that you could do a kind thing and not be doing the will of God? Me either. But Paul taught in his first letter to the church in Corinth that God’s will is not found in the act, but in the love behind it. With God’s love behind it, our kindness is God’s kindness. Without it, we’re just banging and clanging.

“If I speak in tongues of men and of angels but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

1 Corinthians 13:1

If you’ve been to a Christian wedding ceremony, you’ve probably heard a reading of some or all of 1 Corinthians 13. Understanding Paul’s focus in this chapter requires the context provided by chapter 12. When reading the two chapters together, we discover that chapter 13 is not a discussion about love in the marriage relationship as is often thought. It’s really a discussion about putting spiritual gifts to their proper use and the depravity of intentionally, or unintentionally, using those gifts improperly.

(Be sure, citing Paul’s description of true love from chapter 13 in a wedding ceremony is not improper at all. It speaks into the narrow focus of the relationship between God, husband, and wife—one of the many relationships the passage can be applied to.)

Paul’s list of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians includes working of miracles, prophecy, speaking in tongues, interpretation of tongues, and the power to heal. Other spiritual include hospitality, administration, giving, and mercy. Most of us would immediately associate such things with God. If we experienced someone using these gifts we would assume that God was behind it. But that is not always so!

Understanding that spiritual gifts can be misused (or worse, hijacked by Satan for his misuse) is very important. Consider a chain saw. In the hands of a skilled lumberman it can be used to quickly create a stack of perfectly formed logs. In the hand of an untrained, inexperienced user, it can maim or kill operator and bystanders alike. The same is true with the spiritual gifts God gives to people of faith. They are tools designed for a purpose and they are to be used in accordance with that purpose. Whatever gifts God has entrusted to us, we can’t take these gifts or the responsibility for using them lightly. We do great damage when we do, many times without even knowing it.

Thankfully, God’s Word gives us the simple, direct way to measure the use of a spiritual gift. Start with asking the question, “Which came first?” Now we’ve heard the similar, paradoxical question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” This is not a question like that. This is a question with a clear answer. Let’s use two basic truths to examine the use of spiritual gifts:

Truth One: The two imperatives

When asked, Jesus boiled all of the Jewish Law down to two commandments:

Love God.

Love others.

Therefore, any use of spiritual gifts that does not accomplish one of these two objectives falls outside of God’s will, tumbling into the category of misuse. So our evaluating question must always be, “Did love come first?” We can’t assume that the act of using a spiritual gift is automatically righteous. We must ask the question, “Was there sincere love for the other person first, and was the act that followed performed in response to that love?” An affirmative answer to this question is required. If not, we don’t do the will of God, we bang gongs and clang cymbals instead.

Truth Two: God is love, Satan isn’t

Satan longs to convince as many people as possible to reject God’s offer of an eternal, love relationship with Him by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Satan uses loveless application of spiritual gifts as a method of deception to this end. Using the gift in our passage as an example, if we speak in ‘tongues of angels’ without love, we confuse. No one can understand what we’re saying. Those confused by our actions will turn away from our witness. If we speak and interpret tongues in love, we edify and inform. Those informed by our actions will experience God’s love and be drawn to it. Satan loves loveless miracles, loveless healing, loveless prophecy because he knows God is not in them! They contribute to the confusion he thrives on. The more phony, loveless, God-less acts there are, the easier it is to convince non-believers that God is really not necessary, not real, not important. . .

There are two paths a believer can take in the use of spiritual gifts, and as much as we would like, there is no neutral territory for their use—they are either used as a means of expressing God’s love to others or they are used in a way incompatible with God’s purpose for them. That’s the truth.

If you speak in tongues of men and of angels but you have not love, you are only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If you have not love as the central motivation for using any of your spiritual gifts, you do not use them in accordance with God’s will. If you have not love, Satan is surely nearby, ready to use your gift for his purposes.

That’s the YouTruth – If You Have Not Love.

Wisdom Will Enter Your Heart

When we think of wisdom we usually associate it with intellect and knowledge. This view falls well short of God’s version of wisdom and those who hold it miss out on the most powerful aspects of God’s wisdom – it’s based on the absolute truth and its power to change you.

“For wisdom will enter your heart and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.”

Proverbs  2:10 (NIV)


Anyone familiar with the goings-on in a kitchen will know that culinary success depends on following the recipe. Each recipe contains ingredients and directions. Leave out an important ingredient and you don’t get what you expect. No yeast in bread will leave it flat. Fail to follow the directions and you’ll also fail. Neglecting to mix the ingredients for cake batter before baking it will result in part cooked egg, part powdery flour. The recipe must be completely followed to arrive at the tasty conclusion. If anything is missing, you get something else. Wisdom has a recipe. It has ingredients. It has directions.  If you seek after wisdom without considering the total recipe, you get something else. As we examine in detail we will find that what world offers up as wisdom comes up short because it is missing important ingredients and directions.

The World and the Mind
For the world, wisdom is thought of as understanding, intelligence, knowledge—all things that reside in the mind. The acquisition of knowledge is an ongoing process of assessing, thinking, and revising one’s point of view to respond to ever-changing input. What constitutes knowledge today, will face certain revision in the future. For example, much of medical practice from the 18th century has been completely refuted by subsequent discoveries about the human body. None of us will be getting a blood-letting to rebalance our bodily fluids from our family doctor this week. This flow of ever-changing knowledge sets worldly wisdom on the swells and currents of a sea of uncertainty. Now let’s be clear—the acquisition of knowledge and understanding is a noble exercise and should be an integral part of a Christian’s walk. They are both mentioned favorably and often throughout Proverbs, chapter 2. We just need to recognize it for what it is—a temporary understanding of the world around us. We also need to remember that having knowledge doesn’t, by itself, compel you to any action. Because one knows how subatomic particles behave when they collide together at near-light speed doesn’t drive any inherent behavior. At best it is morally neutral.

Let’s review:
Ingredients: knowledge, intellect
Directions: think, assess, continually revise
Result: a temporal, morally neutral understanding of the world around us.

Is this what we are really after? Is this truly wisdom? No!
Using this recipe is like setting out to bake a delicious batch of chocolate chip cookies while leaving out the chocolate chips and failing to use the oven! Let’s make it right.

The Missing Ingredient – God
Let’s get God into the mix. If we want to really mean something, base it on the unchanging, absolute truth rather than the flux and volatility of worldly knowledge. God, as the author of the truth is also the source of true wisdom. In fact, wisdom is the fabric of which all of God’s creation is made. To take it a step further, wisdom is the very essence of God designed into all of creation.

The Missing Directions
So how do we incorporate the key ingredient into the mix? The bible gives us three steps to take—the missing directions in the world’s wisdom recipe:

  1. Fear God – coming to the realization that God has all wisdom is the first step. Revering Him as the author of all creation , wisdom, and truth sets a yearning for Him. (Fearing God is not being afraid of God—for more on this read “The Lord Is Your Helper” in our archives.
  2. Invite Him into your heart—when you invite God into your heart through faith in Jesus Christ, His wisdom comes along for the ride! Your heart becomes the vessel that holds God’s wisdom. If you haven’t invited Him into it, you simply won’t have it.
  3. Ask Him for His wisdom –once His wisdom resides in your heart, you simply have to ask for it when you need it, and He will give it to you (see James 2:5)

Now let’s review the total recipe, ingredients, directions and all:
Ingredients: God, knowledge, understanding, intellect
Directions: fear God, invite Him into your heart, ask Him for His wisdom, think, assess, continually revise
Result: solid, bedrock, unchanging principles to apply to every situation you find yourself in and a changed heart to do it with.
That’s the truth.

For wisdom will enter your heart when you fear God, when you invite Him into your heart, and when you ask Him for His wisdom.

That’s the YouTruth – Wisdom Will Enter Your Heart.

Cast All Your Anxiety on God

Worry. It’s one of those things we do that God wishes we didn’t do.

Care. It’s one of those things God does that He wishes we understood better, because if we fully understood the depth of His care, we’d stop worrying.

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”

1 Peter 5:7 (NASB)

Anxiety. Worry. Uneasiness. Stress. Ouch!

These are words we are all too familiar with.  God wishes that they were as unfamiliar to us as nuclear physics is to an infant. And yet there they are, all too present in most lives. Peter encouraged the readers of his letter to rid themselves of all their anxieties and taught them how to do it. By great faith? Indelible hope? Perseverance? Steadfastness? Well partly yes, but there’s an underlying method that doesn’t usually come to mind—humility. The opposite of humility, human pride, is what gets the whole ‘anxiety ball’ rolling. And oh how it can roll, like a snowball, gaining mass and momentum until it is too big for us to deal with. Let’s look at the relationship between pride and anxiety and discover what God wishes for each of us – life without worries.

Pride and Anxiety

Let’s start by asking the question “Will God meet our needs?”

The answer to this question for people of faith is a resounding “Yes!” Jesus taught us to consider the birds of the air and the lilies of the field (see Matthew 6:25-34). Their every need is met by God. And check this out – they don’t even have the capacity to worry. So, God provides for every need absent of even one ounce of worry of their part.  Thus Jesus concluded that worry accomplishes absolutely nothing! (see Matthew 6:27). And yet we all do it. Why?!


By humbling ourselves, we set aside our own plans for God’s plans and submit ourselves to them completely. Peter implored his readers to ‘humble [themselves] under the mighty hand of God (1 Peter 5:6).’ When we fail to do this we experience worry and anxiety. Why? Because, we begin to expect that our ‘wants,’ the children that are born of our own prideful plans, will be met instead of our ‘needs.’ We further delude ourselves with the notion that God’s promise for provision extends to those things we want. It doesn’t—He clearly promises only to meet our needs. Once ‘wants’ get introduced into the equation, uncertainty quickly enters in as well. Jesus guaranteed us that our needs, whether earthly material needs or eternal, heavenly needs, would be abundantly provided for. There’s no room for worry in this equation. Oh, but start to introduce things that we want, now we’ve got reason to worry. Our wants are quite uncertain. In fact our wants, since they are born of pride, often  directly oppose God’s will for us (see 1 Peter 5:5, Proverbs 3:34).

God’s Care for Us and His ‘Casting Method’

When one cares for another, he provides something that the other cannot provide for themselves. Doctors provide health care for patients that cannot heal themselves on their own. Nursing home workers provide care for the elderly who can no longer care for themselves. So it is with God’s care for us. When it comes to the Kingdom of God, we can do nothing to provide it for ourselves. It takes the free gift of God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ to secure it. Therefore we must approach Him humbly in order to receive it. Pride focuses us on things that distract us from the true riches of abundant life and the Kingdom of God and there is nothing that God wants less for us than to be distracted from His true rewards!  Herein lies God’s method to casting your worries on Him—make the Kingdom your primary concern (Matthew 6:33). It’s guaranteed. It’s a done deal. And it requires humility. So chase out the nasty twins of pride and anxiety and ‘seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33).’ Our needs will be so overwhelmingly, abundantly provided for, you will see anxiety and worry for the completely ineffective, useless, activities they are. That’s the truth.

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, seeking first His Kingdom and His righteousness. If you will do this, He will provide for you all the things you need in great abundance! If you will do this, He will exalt you at the proper time. If you will do this, all your anxiety will be cast on Him. God wants this for you because He cares deeply for you.

That’s the YouTruth – Cast All Your Anxiety on Him.