I finally got to this passage last night, and am just now getting to write about it.
Salt. Light. Cities. Hills. Jesus speaks in concrete ways about spiritual truth. He uses very real and recognizable items to paint a picture of our purpose before God. In verse 13, he teaches his listeners that they are salt. In verse 14, his listeners are described as “the light of the world.” He keeps driving home the point that we should not hide what God is doing, but let it shine out, bringing God glory.
Ἅλας. If we understand what salt’s value is, and when it has lost its value… Πόλις. Ιf we recognize that the city on a mountain can’t be hidden away from view… Φῶς. Ιf we recognize that it makes no sense to cover up the lamp when we need to flood the room with light… why do we think we can hide what we do?
Whether good or bad, our thoughts and deeds are eventually made known. Certainly God sees them. And others seem to always eventually figure out what we would like to keep secret. Jesus teaches us that a disjoint between belief and action is absolutely out of the question. If we say we believe him, are we obedient? Do our actions glorify God? Do people see you and praise God because of what he has done and is doing?
Καλὰ ἔργα. Just three verses, but if we are not careful we go right past them, saying, “Of course, Lord.” But these verses are a stepping stone. Jesus will try to make those around him see that their understanding of the law is flawed; that God expects even more than the “minimum” of practical legalism. Even an over-zealous legalism will be shown to be lacking in true connection to the heart of God. Our deeds bring God glory, but they do not win us favor or privilege.
Jesus is not calling us towards more legalism, more action as a mere show. He is urging us to make our faith and our actions match in reality. That’s what brings God glory.
…So you should consider yourselves dead to sin and able to live for the glory of God through Christ Jesus.Do not let sin control the way you live; do not give in to its lustful desires. Do not let any part of your body become a tool of wickedness, to be used for sinning. Instead, give yourselves completely to God since you have been given new life. And use your whole body as a tool to do what is right for the glory of God. Sin is no longer your master, for you are no longer subject to the law, which enslaves you to sin. Instead, you are free by God’s grace.Romans 6:11-14 (NLT)