Light of the World, Salt of the Earth

Photo by jill111

Excerpted from LETTERS TO A SAMUEL GENERATION by Rachel Starr Thomson
Available in multiple formats here.

“Ye are the salt of the earth:
but if the salt have lost his savour,
wherewith shall it be salted?
it is thenceforth good for nothing,
but to be cast out,
and to be trodden underfoot of men.

“Ye are the light of the world.
A city that is set on a hill
cannot be hid.
Neither do men light a candle,
and put it under a bushel,
but on a candlestick;
and it giveth light to all that are in the house.

“Let your light
so shine before men,
that they may see your good works,
and glorify your Father
which is in heaven.”

(Matthew 5:13-16)

“Who knoweth whether thou art come
to the kingdom
for such a time as this?”

(Esther 4:14b)

“Remember Lot’s wife.”

We live in troubled times.

Do you doubt it? Watch the news. The kings of the earth take council together to decide if our sons and daughters will go to another weary war; while at home, God is mocked, the innocent are murdered, families are ripped to shreds, and children gun each other down and laugh.

Galadriel’s words at the opening of the movie Lord of the Rings seem all too appropriate for our own time: “The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it. Rumour grows of a shadow in the east; whispers of a nameless fear.”

This nation was once godly in its heart and ways, but now the last vestiges of that heritage fast disappear, crushed by the war which has been waged against it in the hallowed halls of society for decades. Truly, much that once was is lost. We live in what some call the “post-Christian era,” a time in which men have become too wise for God and so are doomed to reap the rewards of their own foolishness.

In Tolkien’s story, though, hope was not lost—it lived on in small bands of the faithful: of those in whose breasts still beat the heart of heroism; in those who clung to beauty and goodness and refused to forget that better days had been; and in the hobbits, a people so small and insignificant, so childlike, that only the forces of good could make any use of them. These few faced evil with nothing except hope and determination on their side, and they won.

Neither is hope lost in our world. Here, too, the heroes are those who cling to goodness—who cling to God—who trust simply and do their duty with all the courage that comes from throwing oneself on the Lord of Heaven.

Such heroes live and work in every corner of the globe. They are the missionaries who dare disease and devil alike to stop them; who trek into the darkest corners of life and carry with them the candle flame of the living gospel. They are the families who cling to each other; who honour one another while all the world tells them to cut ties and seek independence; who love one another while all the world tells them to bury love in selfishness; who commit to one another when even their own souls wish to give up.


They are the young people who stand up for purity in a perverted nation. They are the persecuted Christians who suffer and hunger and die, and count it all worth it for the sake of the cross. They are those who remember a man named Jesus in all they say and in all they do; who make their lives a memorial to One who raised the dead and yet gave His own soul to death for our sakes, One who Was and Is and Is to Come.

They are the light of the world, and they are the salt of the earth.

If you are a Christian, you are one of them.

It is easy to forget our calling, as we endlessly follow the daily circle of sleep-eat-work-sleep. It is easy to look at the little we have and fail to look beyond it to the greater purposes of God (though God does not fail to see past appearances, and “out of commonplace lives make His beautiful whole”).

We share the calling of every God-follower who has ever lived, from the time of Adam till now. As light we illumine darkness; as salt we battle the corroding influences of the world. Sometimes this is a conscious battle, more often it is not. But it is being fought nevertheless, and the consequences of it affect everything around us.

It is my belief that no society can ever be spoiled completely while a witness remains in it for God, because salt keeps the meat from rotting. For this reason Sodom and Gomorrah could not be destroyed while the righteous remained within their gates; and Lot’s wife, who had “lost her savour,” became a pillar of salt when she longed to return, in one of the most ironic scenes in the Bible. For this reason the people of God will be taken out of the world before the final judgment comes upon it.

But for now, we are here; and we have work to do. Have you ever looked around you and wondered when God was going to do something about the corruption you see? The fact is, He has done something about it—He has placed you in the midst of it.

There is no formula for how to be effective as salt and light in the world. Each one of us has a separate calling, uniquely formed by God for unique purposes. If we are to be effective in changing the world around us, only one thing is required: faithfulness. It is required that we do the work that is given us to do with our whole heart and that we cease not to seek Him and walk in His ways. If we do, our own closeness to the Father will spill over; as an old Hasidic proverb states, “There are people who can utter words of prayer with true fervour, so that the words shine like a precious stone whose radiance shines of itself. Then again there are people whose words are nothing but a window that has no light of its own, but only lets the light in and shines for that reason.”

As Christians, we are to let the light in with everything that we do.

We live in troubled times, and so it is good that we remember who we are in God’s will. No candle is needed when the sun shines high; but in the darkness, the smallest flame can illuminate a world. This world is dark and getting darker, and so it is for us to go to God and surrender ourselves anew; asking that He use us in the small things of life, so that the great things may be transformed.

A prayer is a small thing; a very small thing, but prayer shakes nations and always has. When next you see a grievous thing, don’t shake your head and walk away—bow your head, and add your voice to the cry of the watchmen:

“I have set watchmen upon thy walls,
O Jerusalem,
which shall never hold their peace day nor night:
ye that make mention of the LORD,
keep not silence,
And give him no rest,
till he establish,
and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth.”

(Isaiah 62:6-7)

And love is a small thing, kindled in small hearts; but it grows until nothing can stand in its way:

“For love is strong as death;
Jealousy is cruel as the grave:
the coals thereof are coals of fire,
which hath a most vehement flame.

“Many waters cannot quench love,
neither can the floods drown it.”

(Song of Solomon 8:6b-7a)

Even so, an apology is a small thing. It is no great thing to humble oneself, to ask forgiveness; it is no great thing to work with those we do not agree with; it is no herculean task to overlook annoyances and let love “cover a multitude of sins.” But these things create unity, which, together with love, shouts the gospel with such a great voice that it is a deaf man indeed who cannot hear it:

“That they all may be one;
as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee,
that they also may be one in us;
that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.

“And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them;
they they may be one,
even as we are one;

“I in them, and thou in me,
that they may be made perfect in one;
and that the world may know that thou hast sent me,
and hast loved them,
as thou hast loved me.”

(John 17:21-23)

When Jesus came to Earth some two thousand years ago, God bypassed the rulers of the world’s mightiest Empire and worked His will through a dumb priest and an elderly woman; through a camel-haired prophet; through a carpenter and a teenage girl. That girl sang the Magnificat, and rejoiced in the day of small things: “My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.” (Luke 1:46-47, 52-53)

candle photo

I am a small thing, and you are a small thing; a pinch of spice here and a candle flicker there; but if we are faithful and surrendered, God will work wonders through us. This is our calling. As the world gets darker, I pray that we will shine all the brighter. As you go about the “endless smallnesses of every day,” remember Whose hands you are in and resolve to be His in everything.

Worship, therefore, at the midnights
When the stars hide.
Worship in the storms till love
Makes thunder whimper and grow quiet
And listen to your whispered hymns.

(Calvin Miller, from A Requiem for Love)

Excerpt from Letters to a Samuel Generation






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