Saturday, June 9, 2007

Lighting the world with salt.

"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 under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto 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)

These are some very interesting verses. We'll often hear Christians say how we are called to be the light of the Earth, or the salt of the Earth. The problem is that if the verses are interpreted in that light (no pun intended), then it becomes a future event. After salvation in the right way, a Christian is then the light and the salt.

But that's not really what the verses are saying. Jesus says these things very early in Matthew, and before the crucifixion. What's more, he's speaking to his disciples and a crowd. The crowd which later marvels at Jesus's teachings when he was done speaking. And Jesus is speaking in the present tense. It can easily be interpreted that Jesus is saying what everyone is right now -- the light of the Earth, or the salt - and that no one should hide it. The crowd falling into those categories has nothing to do with their spiritual status. Rather, Jesus is almost trying to wake everyone up to what s/he already is. The crowd must simply embrace it, and live that life. They must let that light shine forth before men, so everyone can glorify their Father in heaven (which leads to another point. The crowd was already the children of God, even though they hadn't said/believed the right things).

Now, it can be argued that these words only applied to the disciples. The problem then is if that's the case, then the concept of sinning through lust or hatred can only apply to the disciples, too. And the crowd is excluded from that judgement. But Jesus was speaking to the crowd. So wasn't everyone in that crowd already the light of the world? And simply blinded to the fact?

16 comments:

SocietyVs said...

"So wasn't everyone in that crowd already the light of the world? And simply blinded to the fact?" (Heather)

I think that is a great point - and I think you are onto something here concerning Jesus' teachings. I think Matthew is wrapped around 'following Jesus' and the how this is done - from the teachings written down. I can't find a single reason for exclusion within Matthew to any single person (there is no us/them mentality) - it's 'your more than welcome to come along' - or continue reading.

The point your making is true from my readings also - no one is excluded from the teachings - we are salt and we are light - just what do we 'shine' it upon or what do we make 'taste' better. This is something not caged for just the religious but for all people - it's an analogy about the 'matter of fact-ness' of what we do to others (good and bad).

This is encircled by the idea 'treat others how you want to be treated' (whole law in a sentence) - which is not limited to just the supposed religious - or why do we find Jesus throughout Matthew in all kinds of communities (ex: houses of drunks and prostitutes)? These ideas do not depend on your status with the church - but Jesus seems to be showing a way that God approves of - and works for everyone (not just the religious pirates).

Mystical Seeker said...

You raise a really good point. I really like this statement that you made:

"The crowd falling into those categories has nothing to do with their spiritual status. Rather, Jesus is almost trying to wake everyone up to what s/he already is."

A lot of the statements that are attributed to Jesus, the generally considered authentic ones in Matthew that come from Q for example, that predate the crucifixion, could not have have been addressed to "Christians" because there were no such things as Christians during Jesus's life. They were simply addressed to anyone who cared to listen.

Marcus Borg talks about the post-Easter Jesus of faith. When we go to the heart of Jesus's teachings when he was alive, we get to things that are ignored by the Nicene and Apostle's creeds. The creeds have to do with post-Easter interpretations of the meaning of his crucifixion and resurrection. But his life and his teachings, which are ignored by the creeds, predate the crucifixion and resurrection, and in those teachings from his lifetime he wasn't addressing "Christians".

Matthew also said in chapter 28 that Jesus claimed that people were judged on their actions--how they treated other people. There is no reference in that passage about right beliefs or on being "Christians" either.

HeIsSailing said...

Heather pontificates:
"The crowd was already the children of God, even though they hadn't said/believed the right things"

You realize, of course, that this is heresy?

HeIsSailing said...

Just teasing. Actually I love this insight that I considered once but long ago forgot. Thanks for reminding me. I have long imagined that the Sermons on the Mount/Plain was not a long sermon, but just a collection of sayings that Jesus taught during his entire ministry. I think the analogy to salt is also in the Gospel of Thomas, where it is definitely not in the context of Pauline Salvation! Jesus gave plenty of private messages to his desciples, but these types of sermons were to anyone who would listen, and given with no qualifier as to their beliefs - you are absolutely correct about this. Wow, my evangelic church really usurped this one!

My wife's favorite portions of Scripture are Jesus sermons and parables. I can't wait to share this insight with her

Heather said...

Society,

**These ideas do not depend on your status with the church - but Jesus seems to be showing a way that God approves of - and works for everyone (not just the religious pirates). ** Yes. I don't see anywhere that Jesus really came to establish a church or a seperate community (at least not in the Synoptic Gospels). He really promotes here that actions matter so much mroe than words/beliefs. And an action can count as an emotional response, too. Plus, light and salt are things that one sees, and evidence to God working in one's life. Let us shine and salt the hell out of this world (a possible pun intended. I'll decide when I'm more awake) :)

Mystical,

*Matthew also said in chapter 28 that Jesus claimed that people were judged on their actions--how they treated other people. ** I very much agree, and as I say to Society, an action isn't just something physically seen. An action can be an emotional response, such as someone wronging us. Do we let hatred rule in us, or forgiveness?

HIS --

**You realize, of course, that this is heresy? ** Lol. You bring this out now? This is mild compared to some of my other posts. :-P

**you are absolutely correct about this. Wow, my evangelic church really usurped this one!** I think evangelical churches usurped most of the Synoptic Gospels, actually. At least that's the impression I get everytime I read those Gospels.

jim said...

You know, this really is a beautiful "heresy". You've drawn out something beautiful about that ocassion, Jesus pointing out to everyone who they are in the Father's eyes and what they can be to the world. He just wanted them to know that. Let's drop all our agendas and just let everyone know this.

zilch said...

If this is what Christianity really is, where do I sign up? Just kidding...

Actually, I'm already signed up, if light is the answer.

Brendan said...

Even "Pauline salvation" is nothing more than a state of awareness.

Dan Marvin said...

The crowd was already the children of God, even though they hadn't said/believed the right things

You are 100% wrong

We are not the children of God we are born children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3)

You had nothing to do with your salvation it was His Grace alone that saved you (Ephesians 2:5-9)

We are born into a fallen creation and the BIble is so clear about that. We are born into sin and there is no salvation without God's Grace.

Heather said...

Jim,

**Jesus pointing out to everyone who they are in the Father's eyes and what they can be to the world. He just wanted them to know that. ** Yes. It was a 'wake up' moment, and had to be a nice change from being told how worthless they were, or being treated worthless by those in power.

Zilch,

Well, according to my reading, you might already be a Christian. ;) You are, after all, light for all the world.

Brendan,

Paul often seems to get reduced to a few statements. We so often hear Romans 3:23 quoted, instead of him describing what love is in Corinthians, or the fruit of the Spirit, or even how there is neither Jew nor GEntile, male nor female, in Christ.

Heather said...

Dan,

Your quotes don't really address what I said in my post, though, nor does it alter what's in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus was saying to the crowd that they *are* light to the world, they *are* salt to the world. And he was saying this way before the crucifixtion or the resurrection. He was speaking of a current state, and that people shouldn't hide it so that when they do good, others may praise their Father in heaven. He was calling everyone in that crowd a child of God, by asying, "They may give praise to your Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:16). The crowd already had God as a Father. You can offer as many quotes as you like, but it doesn't change the straightforward reading of that section in the Sermon on the Mount.

Brendan said...

"Jesus was saying to the crowd that they *are* light to the world, they *are* salt to the world."

But they couldn't see it. All they saw was their sin under the law, their weakness and their need for redemption. If you need Jesus to tell you about grace, then you need Jesus. But grace is a state of mind that be achieved without it Jesus. And once you really get there, you realize that it wasn't Jesus that gave it you. Like Dorothy and her companions in Oz, it was there all the time. Some people need a symbol outside themselves to make it real. Some don't.

Thus, we read in the Gospel of Thomas:

"Jesus said to his disciples, 'Compare me to something and tell me what I am like.'

Simon Peter said to him, 'You are like a just messenger.'

Matthew said to him, 'You are like a wise philosopher.'

Thomas said to him, 'Teacher, my mouth is utterly unable to say what you are like.'

Jesus said, 'I am not your teacher. Because you have drunk, you have become intoxicated from the bubbling spring that I have tended.'

And he took him, and withdrew, and spoke three sayings to him. When Thomas came back to his friends they asked him, 'What did Jesus say to you?'

Thomas said to them, 'If I tell you one of the sayings he spoke to me, you will pick up rocks and stone me, and fire will come from the rocks and devour you.'"

Heather said...

Brendan,

**All they saw was their sin under the law, their weakness and their need for redemption.** I'm not sure I agree with this statement. Have you heard of the New Perspective on Paul? It's promoted by EP Sanders and NT Wright and others. Basically, what it's saying is that in Judaic thought, it wasn't a matter of works and earning one's salvation. It was more of the law was a means of expressing gratitude for the salvation and the covenant. Plus, their concept of the Messiah wasn't someone who would redeem them from sin. So I'm not sure if the crowd saw their sin under the law or their weakness. But I do think they weren't seeing their light or salt, either.

**Some people need a symbol outside themselves to make it real. Some don't.** Yes. I don't think anyone actually 'gives' grace or anything like that. But it's more of someone kind point to a path that can lead one to where the grace is.

Brendan said...

"Basically, what it's saying is that in Judaic thought, it wasn't a matter of works and earning one's salvation. It was more of the law was a means of expressing gratitude for the salvation and the covenant."

But in Romans 7 and 8 Paul explains his idea that by believing one is bound by the Law, one puts oneself under sin and the condemnation of the Law. It's there that the Law is called the "Law of sin" as opposed to being a slave to the Law of Christ (which is Love, as expounded upon in 1 Corinthians).

"Plus, their concept of the Messiah wasn't someone who would redeem them from sin. So I'm not sure if the crowd saw their sin under the law or their weakness."

Check out chapter 23 of the same "Gospel."

Heather said...

Brendan,

**But in Romans 7 and 8 Paul explains his idea that by believing one is bound by the Law, one puts oneself under sin and the condemnation of the Law. ** The problem is that Paul also has positive things to say about the law given by God, such as Romans 9:4. Paul also had no problems saying that he was a Pharisee, which is odd considering how they're portrayed in the Gospels. Plus, in Jewish literature, I believe that Israel being chosen is considered a gift from God, not earned. They obey the Torah out of gratitude for the covernant, but it's not how one earns salvation. the problem I always have when Paul refers to the law is what exactly does he mean? I thought the 'law' under Jewish thought was the 613 rules. He seems to speaking more towards a form of legalism, rather than the Torah itself.

**Check out chapter 23 of the same "Gospel." ** Is that in reference to what type of Messiah was expected, or the idea that the law showcased sin? Because Matthew 23 is Jesus attacking the Pharisees and others, which was a different crowd compared to the Sermon on the Mount.

Brendan said...

"Paul also had no problems saying that he was a Pharisee, which is odd considering how they're portrayed in the Gospels."

But remember, there's no evidence the gospels had even been written in Paul's day.

"the problem I always have when Paul refers to the law is what exactly does he mean? I thought the 'law' under Jewish thought was the 613 rules. He seems to speaking more towards a form of legalism, rather than the Torah itself."

Perhaps. But he expressly states that he is not under the Law and proceeds to criticize Jerusalem Christians for insisting that gentiles observe it, at one point calling Peter a hypocrite and his group "axe-wielding circumcisionaries."

My point in mentioning Matt 23 is that it reveals what the author of Chapter 5 thought of the Law and its keepers. There's little reason to believe this was actually written about speeches given to crowds of people. There's no good reason to think of it as anything other than metaphorical fiction, revealing the biases and attitudes of the author(s).