For Bible Study Nerds

Some Bible teachers try to mine deeply the idea that Christians are “salt and light.” For them, every little aspect bears a significant application: Salt preserves, so we should be “preservatives” in our society. Light shines, so we should testify brightlyall the time. Salt was used to kill vegetation on ancient footpaths, so we should…well, who knows what we should do with that. And so on.

In their zeal for the biblical text, these preachers often overlook the divine simplicity of Christ’s teaching. In this case, Jesus simply employed rhetorical absurdity to make a point, using extreme metaphors of salt and light to reveal natural spiritual truth to his hearers.

For instance, pure salt is a chemically stable substance. It never goes bad, has no expiration date, and can never “lose its saltiness.” Thus, when Jesus said “if the salt loses its saltiness” he made an over-the-top rhetorical statement that would’ve been easily understood as such by his audience. The image of a person lighting a lamp and then hiding it under a bowl was likewise ridiculous. Only a mentally unstable person would have done that.

The point Jesus seemed to make here wasn’t that we’re supposed to take on all the obscure characteristics of salt or light. Instead, Christ called his hearers to live out everyday expressions of faith that are similar to the run-of-the-mill existence of salt and light:

Just as it’s natural for salt to be salty and natural for light to shine, it’s a natural thing for God’s children to daily reflect the goodness and glory of their heavenly Father.


Works Cited:

[MAC, 1381]



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About: Mike Nappa

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