Monday, October 13, 2008

Matthew 5:13 Don’t Live a Useless Life

I am an auditor. One of the entities our office audits makes mortgage loans. It’s not a very polite thing to say, I guess, but the people there are difficult to work with. They are uncooperative, argumentative, and have the idea that we shouldn’t have authority to audit them. On the upside, there is one guy there that does a great Foghorn Leghorn impersonation (Ah say, ah say son…). The running joke for those of us who have been on that audit is “Next year, I’m going to get a mortgage from this agency”. If I did that, you see, I would no longer be able to audit that agency. I would no longer be independent and independence in appearance and in fact is required of an auditor. In a sense, you could say that loan would contaminate my independence. In much the same way, a Christian can become contaminated by the world and therefore be useless or ineffective as a minister. Jesus warns, in this verse, against such contamination.

First of all, Jesus declares the identity of believers in this verse. He says “You are the salt of the earth”. Notice, this isn’t directed at all people. In verse 1, we see that His disciples came to Him to be taught. Also, notice that He speaks this in present tense and it is not a command. Jesus is stating a fact not of something that will be true or was true but rather of something that currently is true. Finally, He identifies what His disciples were—salt. Now, I’ve heard all sorts of sermons and you have too as to what this identification of believers as salt means. We know that salt enhances flavor. I have heard a preacher teach that we believers are here to make the world more flavorful—to bring spice or variety. We also know that salt was used as a preservative. They didn’t have refrigerators to keep things from spoiling and there was no Dead Sea Tupperware to help these ancient people stretch their food dollar. Therefore, they used salt to help keep things from spoiling and we, as followers of Christ, are here to help keep the world from stinking. Somehow, these explanations never really seemed right. I think there is a much simpler explanation right here in the text. Let’s examine further while also thinking about salt.

Salt is distinctive. If I have a big ol’ bowl of chili (which I eat over rice--Yeah my wife thinks I’m weird for that, too) and I ate a bite before I added some salt it might taste a little bland. But after I add the salt I can immediately taste a difference. . That is because salt is distinctive. As John MacArthur observes in his study bible, salts in the area of Israel could become contaminated and flat. When that happened, they no longer had a distinctive, salty flavor. Jesus says in this verse that they have “become tasteless” (Greek moraine-3471). This Greek word can mean “to become insipid” or more colloquially “to play the fool”. When the salt became contaminated with minerals like gypsum, for instance, it could no longer function as it was intended.

Brothers and sisters, that is a danger for us as well. We, too, can become contaminated. With what, you might ask. We can become contaminated with this world and its attitudes, behaviors, and sinful lusts. There is a reason why, throughout scripture, we are told to live differently than the rest of the world.. Ephesians 4:1 says “Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called.” Psalms chapter 1 reminds us in verse 1 “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!” When we live like the rest of the world and allow sin to contaminate us, we lose our distinctiveness. When people here us joke about the same things they joke about we lose our ability to witness to them. Their first thought would be “Well, I don’t know why Joe’s talking to me about this being wrong. He was laughing at my dirty joke the other day.” When they see us live in a manner that is no different than how they live they will not take our gospel message seriously.

I remember a few years ago, my wife and I were eating in a Wendy’s for lunch after church one day. There was a lady in line ahead of us who had obviously just gotten out of church. She was blessing the kid behind the counter up one end and down the other about not having worn some gloves when he dipped her chili. Now, imagine how he would react to another Christian sharing the gospel with him. “If that lady was a Christian, then I sure don’t want any part of that”. I mean, let’s face it. She was wearing the “uniform”. When she acted like the rest of the world acted, it not only contaminated her but in some respects the witness of all Christians. When our witness is compromised and we no longer have our salt-like distinctiveness, we are useless. We cannot “be made salty again” When we compromise our witness, we become useless for ministry and are “no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”

Let’s remember this fact as we live. We’re going to fail and sin as we go through this world. However, with the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, we can grow and become more Christlike and resist the contamination of this world. As Paul writes in Romans 12:1, let us all resist the worlds attempts to conform us to its way of doing things and allow Jesus to live through us in our words and our actions.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this. I have been reading through Matthew and, when I came across this verse, I wasn't sure how to take it. I searched for a commentary, and so far, yours has seemed the most accurate to me. Blessings! Allison

Joe Blackmon said...

Thank you, Allison.

It's nice to know that I can encourage other believers with my blog. Thank you for your kind comments.

mangedifier said...

I will Share to all of my bretheren in Christ Jesus...

Joe Blackmon said...

mangedifier

Ummm, ok....