It’s always around this time when I receive the Harvest reports from the different states I hunted in the previous year. The Game and Fish Departments all want to know one thing, “Did you harvest?” Although I know what they mean, the choice of words seems a bit odd. I can only assume that the “Save the Wolf” crowd and the “Every Deer is Dear” crowd probably didn’t hunt the previous year, so why use the word “Harvest?” Harvest means the act, or process, of gathering in a crop; or the quantity of a natural product gathered in a single season. I really don’t think of deer or elk as a crop, or as a natural product. I’ve never heard large numbers of big game animals described as a “bumper crop?” The meat from deer or elk are not sold on the market as a commodity. The only time “future prices” is used in hunting is when guys are sitting around speculating about the cost of next years tag. So what gives? Why not just ask, “Did you kill anything?”
Christians are guilty of this as well. We use words to convey truth, that often times, don’t carry the weight they were originally intended. Whenever a word gets translated from one language to another, or sometimes translated through two languages, its original meaning gets watered down a bit. Now, for those of you thinking, “Oh boy…Johnny’s been reading the Strong’s concordance again”, I assure you that is not where I’m going with this discourse. The English words in our Bible are perfectly capable of carrying the weight they were intended. The problem…is our own ignorance of the English words and the context they are used in. For example, lets look at a passage from Matthew 5:13-16:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
In this passage, Christians are described as salt – light – and the city on the hill. These are words and phrases we are familiar with. However, we think of these words in our present age and completely out of context of the whole sermon on the mount (in which this passage is a part). Jesus was speaking about how His followers should follow Him and listing their (our) attributes which will insure the following.
SALT- Notice that Jesus says, “You are the salt”, not ‘like salt’…or ‘may be salty at times’…but ‘are salt.’ This leaves no room for an ‘on-off’ understanding of this Scriptural truth. We are salt. This means that we are sent to preserve the world. To preserve the world against rotting, putrefaction, and/or spoiling, to preserve the world against judgement. Salt is used to preserve, and season, meat by sprinkling the granules around to stave off the effects of the air. We are sent, sprinkled around the globe, to preserve and season the world against the effects of worldliness, against the importance of temperateness over eternalness. Seasoned meat has been preserved against the harsh element of time. Likewise, seasoned believers have been preserved against the harsh element of life. Meat can always be seasoned with salt, but salt can’t be seasoned with anything. If we let the world wash us dirty, with worries, busyness, and impurity…we have become useless. Useless to carrying out the mission of preserving the world.
LIGHT- Again…Jesus says, “You are the light”. The importance of this statement is really hammered home when we read John 8:12, “Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” Our world is not surrounded by darkness, it is darkness. Jesus is the shining light, the beacon that shines to all of the travelers of the dark road. The lost among us, like moths attracted to the flame, yearn for the light of life. We have the Light of life, we are one body with Christ, we carry the way, the truth, and the life within us…we are the only Light (the only Jesus) many people will ever see. This Light of life cannot be covered with a basket, or dampened down, an ‘on again-off again’ kind of thing. We are tasked with boldness, with courage, with penetrating the darkness with the illuminating Light of our lives spent carrying the message of hope. Done correctly, our lives will be both admired and revered and despised and hated.
CITY on the HILL- The trees may grow, the suburbs may sprawl, the farm ground around the outskirts may lengthen…but the city built upon the hill cannot be hidden. Our good works and service to our God should be evident to all. The world preaches a self serving type of community service. Labels like “networking” and “being neighborly” get thrown around to describe our motivation for helping. Although our personal relationship with God, our seeking His still small voice, our prayers of anguish and thanksgiving, our plea for forgiveness and mercy should remain private…our good works in the public eye should be starkly visible against the backdrop of the world’s version of community service. When I’m traveling the back country on roads foreign to me at night, the lights of the city built on the hill convey a message of “Welcome, Safety, Fuel…Life.” I can see that city way out there on the horizon as its light cuts through the darkness of nightfall. It beckons me like a long lost son to return home to the safety of community.
Brothers…we are the salt, the light, and the city on the hill that cannot be hidden. Why are we these things? To bring in the harvest and to glorify our Father who is in Heaven…that’s why. Lets start our day today by praying through this verse in 1 Peter 4:11, “Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”