From home to the public square: How to be salt for the world
What comes to mind when you think about salt?
For most of us in a modern context, we think about the small canister sitting on our kitchen table or in our pantry containing the mineral we sprinkle on our food. But let’s dig a bit deeper.
Salt, at its core, serves two primary purposes: it is both a seasoning agent used to enhance and draw out the best in certain foods and also a preservation tool that hedges against mold and decay.
It both enhances and preserves.
In fact, those two descriptors get to the heart of the Christian life, one that enhances the common good by the power of the Holy Spirit and preserves the created goodness of God’s world while testifying to his grace and mercy.
But have you ever considered the way in which your vocation, the work you do each day, might fit into these categories of seasoning or preservation?
Jesus’ words to his followers in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5:13-16 frame this question for us.
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
In a 2011 essay for Christianity Today, the late theologian and minister John Stott pointed to this exact passage as an example of a differentiated and distinct power Christians are to represent in the way they live.
“Like salt in putrefying meat, Christians are to hinder social decay,” Stott wrote. “Like light in the prevailing darkness, Christians are to illumine society and show it a better way.”
This is the heart behind our engagement with this passage today. Whatever the work assignment you are called to in this season, you represent saltiness in the way you work.
For instance, those working in industries like advertising, business, technology, arts, hospitality, and communications all enhance and season the world in which we live. Whether through a well-developed marketing campaign, a beautiful painting, a warm meal, or a new iPhone, each of these vocational spheres represents an opportunity to live out the cultural mandate of Genesis 1:27 to create culture by being fruitful and multiplying.
Those working in spheres like education, medicine, social services, legal representatives, law enforcement, and science represent vocations that push back against the decay of sin in the world. By upholding justice, curing diseases, or sitting with those in pain, each of these vocational spheres fight against the ways sin has twisted the created order. The thistles of thorns of Genesis 3:18 are restrained as each of the workers in these vocations push back to preserve the beauty, truth, goodness, and justice of God and his world.
There are surely vocations left out in this exercise, but the hope is that you catch the vision. Being salt and light is not an experience applied only to moments of evangelism or serving the poor. Being salt and light is the embodiment of the Christian life before a watching world.
Because, as Stott writes, “the truth is powerful when it’s argued, (and) it’s more powerful when it’s exhibited.”
It can be tempting to read this passage as an opportunity to evangelize coworkers. While there is a goodness in desiring to see the gospel message take root in the lives of those we overlap with on a daily basis, we need to be challenged to see this passage as applying to the whole of the Christian life rather than one activity.
Christians are people to be marked by their distinctive and preservative saltiness. This isn’t something that selectively manifests itself, but rather is the motivation by which they lead their families, work their jobs, and engage in the public square.
As Madeleine L’Engle writes, “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”
Beauty is inviting. So take heart that through the way you engage your daily work, you have an opportunity to represent salt and light in all you do to winsomely invite others to see the magnetic glory of the gospel.
Editor’s note: This article originally appeared at tcfwla.com.Topics: Christian Life