Matthew 5:13 (ESV) – 1“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.”
When I read this verse, I think of influence. These familiar words come from the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus is casting a vision for what life looks like in the kingdom of God. Instead of giving us a laundry list of things to do in order to be a good citizen of the kingdom, He lays out an ethic, a way of being in the world that exemplifies a heart that has been transformed by the glory of God. And right in the beginning of the Sermon, Jesus talks about influence.
I once read a sermon where the pastor compared influence to breathing. So, go ahead and take a big breath in, hold it for a moment, then let it all out. Influence is like breathing because it is something that goes on all the time without thought, without effort, and without intention. In the same way we breathe out without thinking about it, we are we are constantly influencing the people we come into contact with, just like we breathe in with no thought or intention we are continually being influenced by the world around us. We cannot escape the fact that our lives are interacting with all the lives of those in our community, and influence is being exerted both in an outward and inward direction.
So, when Jesus is talking about ‘being the salt of the earth,’ He is talking about the necessity for His followers to be intentional with the influence they exert on their world. Salt was one of the most valuable, most sought after, most necessary substances in the first century. Its influence on that world was unmistakable, and Jesus is saying that His follower’s influence must be unmistakable as well. The problem is, just like breathing, we often go about our day without any thought or intention about how we are affecting those around us. We need to remember that the moment we declare our faith in Jesus people are watching. They are watching how we deal with adversity. They are watching how we conduct our business affairs. They are watching how we talk to our children when they frustrate us. People want to see whether or not the faith we profess really makes a difference in our lives. So, the reality is we can be a tremendous witness to the grace and beauty of Jesus in the everyday moments of our lives as we strive to become more intentional with our influence. Dana posted a great challenge last week about how kindness can be truly influential in our world. Definitely check it out here.http://www.fbcdalhart.org/be-kind.
But, just like we breathe out influence, we are also breathing in influence in every encounter we have each and every day. Every conversation, every experience and every circumstance can play a role in shaping our worldview and our priorities in life. And with the rise of digital media, we are being influenced in ways that we may never imagine.
Brett McCracken recently posted on article on The Gospel Coalition’s website where he stated: “The digital age, and more broadly our secular age, has greatly expanded the horizon of ideas shaping Christians. The church is increasingly just one voice among many speaking into a Christian’s life. A church’s worship habits may occupy two hours of a Christian’s week. But podcasts, radio shows, cable news, social media, streaming entertainment, and other forms of media account for upwards of 90 hours of their week.”
McCracken goes on to write: “How can a few hours of Christian formation (and during COVID, maybe zero hours) compete with the tidal wave of media rushing over people? Even the most pastorally effective shepherds will struggle to guard flocks against the many voices influencing them.”
Jesus told his audience they needed to be careful lest they lose their salty flavor and become useless and thrown out to be trampled underfoot by men. The problem in the first century is that salt wouldn’t necessarily lose its taste, but it could easily become contaminated with other minerals due to primitive production methods and lose its effectiveness. Jesus is warning believers that we, too, can easily become contaminated with worldly ideas and ineffective priorities and lose our influence in the world for the gospel.
The challenge for us is to ask ourselves, ‘how am I being influenced today.’ Are we being influenced by the goodness of God’s Word? Are we spending time in prayer? Are we connecting with our spiritual family? Just as we need to be good stewards of the way we influence the world; we also need to be intentional about how the world influences us.