Sitting at the Feet of Yeshua
In my last post, we concluded our study of the Beatitudes. In this post, we will continue to sit at the feet of Yeshua as we begin to contemplate His command to be the salt of the earth and to let our light shine.
“You are salt for the Land. But if salt becomes tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything except being thrown out for people to trample on. You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don’t cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” ~ Matthew 5:13-16 (CJB)
A quick read of the Beatitudes could suggest that Yeshua intended His followers to withdraw from the world and form separate communities – certainly, many cults have arisen over the years to form their own communes. However, our text for this post immediately contradicts any such idea. Following Yeshua goes far beyond private spirituality. It involves a Believer’s public life, particularly through work and participation in the community. Yeshua’s talmidim must be salt and light, arresting decay and providing illumination for a lost and dying world. They must influence their environment by their faith.
Let’s face it. Sometimes, it’s not very easy to be a dedicated Believer. Our society is not a friend to God or to His people. Whether we like it or not, there is conflict between us and the world. Why? Because we are different from the world and we have different attitudes. We think differently. We don’t allow, at least for long, our circumstances to control our happiness. We have faith in a living God!
As we read the Beatitudes, we found that they represented an outlook radically different from that of the world. The world praises pride, not humility. The world endorses sin, especially if you can “get away with it.” The world is at war with God, while God is seeking peace. He wants to reconcile His enemies and make them His children. We must also expect to be persecuted if we are living, as God wants us to live.
We have learned from Vayikra (Leviticus) that we are called to be holy in the midst of an evil world (Vayikra 11:44). Yeshua didn’t ask God to take Believers out of the world but instead to use them in the world. Because Yeshua sends us into the world, we should not try to escape from the world, nor should we avoid all relationships with non-Believers.
In almost a postscript to the Beatitudes, Yeshua tells us that we are to be salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16). We are to do the work that God sent us to do. We are called to have influencing faith. We are to influence the world around us by the faith that we have in a living and loving God.
In these four verses the Lord summarizes the function of Believers in the world. Reduced to one word, that function is influence. Whoever lives according to the Beatitudes is going to function in the world as salt and light. We are called to influence the world by our behavior. Our behavior affects other people for better or for worse. As John Donne reminds us, “No man is an island.”
We are to be in the world and influence the world by our faith. Shortly before His execution, Yeshua said to His Father, “I don’t ask you to take them out of the world, but to protect them from the Evil One. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Just as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:15-16, 18)
When we live the life of the Beatitudes some people will respond favorably and be saved, while others will ridicule and persecute us. In either case, our lives have profound effects, and even persecution is not to alter our function in the world. According to Kefa, we “are a chosen people, the King’s cohanim (priests), a holy nation, a people for God to possess! Why? In order for you to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 2:9)
In his book, “Costly Grace”, Jon Walker writes:
“The Beatitudes explain that the poor, ignoble and weak – the disciples of Jesus – now sustain the earth. Without you, the world would collapse. If you are a disciple of Jesus, you carry this responsibility. Your connection to Jesus gives you influence, but that also makes you responsible for how you use your influence. You cannot be a disciple of Jesus and fail to carry His influence.
This is the cost of grace. This is the cost of your donation with Jesus. This is why Jesus tells you to count the cost before you follow Him in to the Kingdom of Heaven. His grace is free, but He requires your whole life so He can fill you fully with His life. You no longer ‘live as your human nature tells you to; instead, you live as the Spirit tells you to’ because God’s Spirit lives in you. (Romans 8:9-10)
Our refusal to use our influence is nothing short of rebellion against God’s plan of salvation and grace. We want the privilege of grace without the responsibility.”
The metaphor of salt and light emphasize different characteristics of influence, but their basic purpose is the same. The world needs salt because it is corrupt and decaying and it needs light because it is dark. The world cannot do anything but get worse, because it has no inherent goodness to build on, no inherent spiritual and moral life in which it can grow. Year after year the system of evil accumulates a deeper darkness.
Man has increased in scientific, medical, historical, educational, psychological, and technological knowledge at an astounding rate. But he has not changed his own basic nature and he has not improved society. Man’s knowledge has greatly improved, but his morals have progressively degenerated. His confidence has increased, but his peace of mind has diminished. His accomplishments have increased, but his sense of purpose and meaning have all but disappeared. Instead of improving the moral and spiritual quality of his life, man’s discoveries and accomplishments have simply provided ways for him to express and promote his depravity faster and more destructively. Modern man has simply invented more ways to corrupt and destroy himself.
Man is infected with the deadly virus of sin, which has no cure apart from God. Yet unlike their attitude toward physical diseases, most men do not want their sin cured. They love their decadence and they hate God’s righteousness (John 3:19-21). They love their own way and they hate God’s.
We cannot accept the world’s self-centeredness, easy solutions, immorality, amorality, and materialism. We are called to minister to the world while being separated from its standards and ways. Sadly, however, the Kehilah today is more influenced by the world than the world is influenced by the Kehilah.
In my next post, we will continue to sit at the feet of Yeshua in our study of Matthew by examining more closely what it means practically to be salt and light to the world.