These small group studies of Matthew contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, verse by verse commentary, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
Matthew 5:13-16 Inductive Bible Study – Discussion Questions and Verse by Verse Commentary
I. You are the salt of the earth.
What does this phrase mean? I have read a number of different thoughts on this. Here are some things we know about salt.
- It is essential for life. Salt or sodium chloride is the only mineral that is found in all cells of the human body. However, it seems unlikely that Jesus would use such a biological definition, when his readers would not have been familiar with this.
- Salt was very valuable. At times it was used as a currency.
- Salt enhances the flavor of food. It influences whatever it touches.
- It preserves food as well.
So what is Jesus saying? He clearly says that salt which loses its flavor is worthless. Would anybody pay for salt that wasn’t salty? In a like manner, believers are to influence the world around them through their testimony for Christ. Their life and witness preserves the world and influences the world in a positive way like salt. But salt is different than other flavors. It has its own unique taste. We too must be different from the world. We must have a strong flavor/influence for the Lord. If so, then we will be very valuable like good salt. But if not, then we are useless (much like the passages which talk about a tree that does not bear good fruit.)
Bonus English vocabulary tip: The world for salary is actually derived from the word “salarium,” which is the word used to denote salt as a currency.
II. You are the light of the world.
Jesus used a common object to teach people this simple lesson. These days we also use lamps although now they are electric. Do you do this? Do you turn on a lamp and then cover it? Do you turn on a lamp and then put it into your wardrobe and shut the door? Of course not. Jesus asks again, “Is it not brought to be put on the lampstand?” The purpose of a lamp is to shine out. It is not only not hidden, but it is set on a stand so that its light can shine even more prominently. It is not reasonable or logical to cover it up.
So how does that apply to us as kingdom citizens?
We are light bearers who reflect the light of Christ. John 8:12, Ephesians 5:8. – In these verses we learn that Jesus is the light of the world. This was one of seven “I AM” statements Jesus made about Himself, showing us that being the light of the world is one of the key aspects of His nature. Revelation 21:23. Here we see that in God’s eternal kingdom there will not need to be a sun or a moon or lamps as light comes directly from Jesus, an everlasting reminder of Jesus’ innate goodness and holiness Ephesians 5:8. Here we learn that we are actually light in the Lord. Just as God takes away our sin and puts His righteousness onto us, He takes away our darkness and puts His light into us. When we are saved, He lights the lamps of our hearts. Your life will not shine brighter through your own efforts because you have no light of your own. Just as a monkey cannot create fire, neither can you shine spiritually by yourself.
So how can we shine brighter? How can we light up the world around us? In Exodus 34:29 Moses’ face was shining. His face was shining because he spent time with God. He encountered God. He communed with God. This encounter with God left Moses a different person. Inwardly he was different. But outwardly he was also different. The people of Israel could see that something special had happened. They could see that Moses was different. In a similar way, if you spend time with God you will be changed. The more quality time you spend with Him, the more your life will shine. He will change you from the inside out. Your attitude will be different. Your countenance will be different. Your words and tone of voice will be different. What you want to talk about will be different. As you continue to be changed and you shine more and more brightly for Christ, your family and friends will notice. And when they do, use the opportunity to let them know it is because of the Lord so that as they will see your good deeds and glorify your Father who is in heaven. That means the goal of shining the light is not so people will notice how good you are. It is so that they will be attracted to the Lord.
Application: To shine brighter you must spend time with the Lord. Here are some possible ways you can do this:
1.Prioritize morning devotions. If you have them, it will make a difference the whole day.
- Pick a verse from your devotional time to meditate on throughout the day. It could be a verse about God’s character or an instruction about how to live.
- Practice a lifestyle of prayer. Throughout the day, make some time for quiet moments to pray to God expressing confession, thanksgiving, and praise.
- Set aside regular times for extended times of prayer when you will put aside all distractions and draw close to the Lord.
- If you regularly commute, use the time on the subway or bus in a fruitful way. Read good Christian books and don’t just pass the time away messing on your phone.
We should not keep our faith a secret – Jesus is saying here that it is unreasonable and illogical to claim to have faith in Christ and then keep that faith a secret.
As illogical as it is, sometimes believers do not publicly profess their faith in front of others. Sometimes they are afraid of persecution. Sometimes they are afraid of being ridiculed. Sometimes they simply want to fit in with the others around them. Sometimes they are embarrassed because maybe they know they are not acting like believers. If you are sometimes in one of those groups, I want to tell you something today. It is sin. It is sinful to hide your faith. You don’t have to be afraid. You should follow the apostle Paul in Romans 1:16 who said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ for it is the power of God.” Fear God rather than man.
I want each of you to think about a question. Do all of the people who are close to you, such as friends, relatives, co-workers, know that you are a believer? If not, why not? And if they do know you are a Christian because of your words, do they see the light of Christ in you? If you invited them to come with you to church would your life witness in front of them make them want to come with you or make them hesitate?
It is better to boldly proclaim your faith because it will be discovered anyway – Let your light shine before men. We should not keep our faith secret. In Mark 4:22 we learn that our faith will likely be discovered anyway. If you don’t of your own accord tell your friends/family of your faith, they will probably find out on their own. Then when they do find out it will seem as if they are uncovering a secret that you are doing something bad rather than you announcing something good.
In some countries where it is not common to trust in Christ, many new believers are nervous about telling their parents about their faith. They know that their parents will likely not approve. I once knew a young believer named Jack. His parents had apparently heard some rumors that he became a believer. They were very upset. They wanted to make sure that he was not joining any Christian meetings. So they would call him up at random times and ask him to turn his video on and do a three hundred sixty view of the room he was in to prove he was not in a Christian meeting. For a while Jack was afraid to admit to his parents that he was a believer, but at the same time he didn’t want to stop learning more about God. He was afraid and miserable and worried about being found out. And his parents were suspicious that he was involved in something bad, something that would their only son away from them.
I encouraged him to have honest communication with his parents and try to understand what they were worried about so that he could better communicate with them and address their concerns. So he talked with them. They told him that a Christian sect in their town was full of people who didn’t go to work. They didn’t make a living for themselves. They just lounged around and prayed and waited for the second coming. They were afraid that if Jack was a believer, he would quite his job and join the other “Christians” sipping sodas and reclining in lounge chairs. Once he understand their concerns, he was able to share with them the truth such as 2 Thessalonians 3:10, “We also gave you the rule that if you don’t work, you don’t eat.” He told them what it really meant to be a believer and cleared up their misconceptions. The result was that they weren’t suspicious or worried anymore. They stopped calling him and asking him to prove where he was.
It is better to proactively share your faith with your parents and others than it is for them to find out about it on their own. One rule of a good general is that he should always choose himself the place and time of battle. He should act instead of react. By coming forward to your parents you can better communicate the truth of the Word at a time when they will be more likely to listen. You will be able to experience God’s peace knowing you are not hiding anything. Your parents will be able to see how important this is to you. And your faith will be better able to grow because it is not being covered. Not all parents will accept it, in which case you still have to stand for what is right. So how can you start? One person shared the following idea with me for students. You can say something like, “Mom and Dad, you sent me to university to learn more things about the world. While I was in university, I learned something really important that has changed my life. And I would like to share that with you.”
In Deuteronomy 6 we learn that believers should write God’s words on their foreheads and put His words on their gateposts and doorways.
The Goal – The goal of letting your light shine is not to bring credit to yourself or make people respect you. It is instead to bring glory to God, to attract people to Him.
More to come soon
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