“You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven…Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to complete…For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-20 various)
Going backwards, let’s start with the hardest one: being more righteous than the Pharisees. Who can be more righteous than the Pharisees? They studied scripture all the time. They read it and took it literally. They counted the number of steps it took to go to the synagogue on the Sabbath, so that they wouldn’t break the Law. They didn’t prepare food, or mow the lawn. Even today, in some Orthodox cases, if a toddler has turned on a stereo on the Sabbath, they can’t turn it off: it’s work.
The way to accomplish the More-Righteous-Than-the-Pharisees command is in what is before it: Jesus saying He didn’t come to abolish the Law, but to complete it. This from the One who ate with people who were ritually unclean, who didn’t wash his hands before he ate, who worked (healed) on the Sabbath all the time, who healed pagans and Romans and Samaritans andgirls (people who were not counted as important or included in the community of the Hebrews), who taught women.
Really? He came to Fulfill versus Abolish the Law? Perhaps it has something to do with the Spirit of the Law versus the Letter of the Law. Perhaps it has to do with the whole idea of scripture: God Is Love! The Whole Idea versus the Jot and Tittle. Jesus fulfilled the Law by Loving unconditionally. Which may be what we are supposed to do as Salt and Light in the world.
Salt is not that good for you, tho’ you have to have it…if you put it on beans that are softening, they won’t soften. It hardens arteries. I did know a woman one time who had a pacemaker put in and they gave her written orders that included “eliminate salt from your diet,” and she did…about a week later she went into the hospital very sick, and they gave her intravenous salt. She could have died. (She’s the one, who, when she was in her 90’s would say, “Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be 75 again!”)
Who puts their light under a bushel basket? It would burn the basket, if the light didn’t just go out. Do you have talents the Lord has given to you: do you use them? Do you share them with others? If you don’t that’s putting your light under a bushel basket. Whatever you hide your talents in will burn up, and/or your light will simply go out. (Actually, I believe that even if a talent has laid dormant for a while, if you begin again, it will come right back to you.)
Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, had a Radical View of the Law, and even so, He lived it completely, trusting God (Hebrews 2:13), and living in the Whole Idea: God is Love. By doing that, by fulfilling the Spirit of the Law, He fulfilled the letter of the Law, and set us Free, to shinethe Light of Him into the world; Free to be the God-seasoning to the world through our lives.
Let us be who God made us to be; Let us be the salt of the earth and the light of the world, so that all may Know Him, and His redeeming, forgiving, unconditional love. And in living within the Whole Idea of God is Love, we will be more righteous than the Pharisees, who lived the jot and tittles, and neglected mercy, justice and love. (Mt. 23:23; 1Cor. 13:1-13)
Blessings, Pastor Bethany