My Children Need To Be Salt & Light – Really?

Light spilled saltIt is by far one of the most oft-given reasons why Christian parents continue to send their children to secular schools.  They usually quote Jesus admonition in Matthew 5:13&14 where He declares (emphasis mine):

YOU are the salt of the earth…YOU are the light of the world

Parents use this verse to support their decision to educate their children in secular programs.  After all this is what Jesus commanded every Christian to be, right?  With this being said, the debate usually ends.  So how should we address the salt and light issue when it comes to educating our children?

This is an extremely important issue to address and I am not able to satisfactorily address it in a single post.  I approach this topic with fear and trembling and am asking God’s Spirit to guide me into truth.  So where should I begin?  Whenever I have heard someone teach on how to correctly interpret the Bible, he always begins by emphasizing the importance of CONTEXT.

Peter wrote that no portion of Scripture is open to private interpretation.  We must view any portion of God’s Word in light of what other portions of the Bible say about it.  Context is extremely important.  So I begin by looking at the context of these words from our Lord.

Matthew wrote that Jesus was going all over Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people.  This resulted in large crowds following Him from Galilee, Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.  With this backdrop the writer opens up chapter 5 telling us that when Jesus saw the crowds, He withdrew and went up on a mountain.

We also know from other similar occurrences that whenever Jesus saw large crowds/the masses, He looked on them with compassion.  One gospel writer stated that Jesus saw the masses as sheep wandering about without a shepherd.  They were lost and had no hope.

On this occasion a group of people saw Him withdraw to a hillside and they went to Him.  This is an important point because when this group came to Jesus, He sat down and began teaching them (this specific group).  It is to this group of people that He told them that “they” were the salt and light of the world.

Who was this group of individuals that Jesus addressed?  Matthew 5:1 identifies them as His disciples.  The lost did not come to Him.  Children didn’t come to Him.  It even appears that new believers didn’t come to Jesus.  His disciples came to Jesus and it was to these people that He delivered what is now referred to as the Sermon on the Mount.

Christ’s strong charge to be the salt of the earth and light of the world was given to His disciples.  It takes a disciple of Christ to be salt and light in this dark lost world.  When we take this charge and apply to others who are not yet disciples of Christ, we are taking this passage of Scripture out of context.

So who would be a disciple of Jesus to whom He would give this charge?  Again, we must look to the Scriptures for our answer.  Here are some things that Gods’ Word states are characteristics of a disciple.

  • Disciples are Christians who are obeying all that God has commanded (Matthew 28:20).
  • Disciples are people who daily deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23).
  • True disciples are those who continue in His Word, know truth and are set free the captivity of false philosophies. (John 8:31-32).
  • A disciple must be a workman who is able to rightly divide (handle/interpret) God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15).
  • Disciples are ones who can endure hardships like a soldier and are not entangled in the things of the world (2 Timothy 2:3).

Jesus is our example of this type of person.  On several occasions, He would challenge the teachers of His day.  It usually went something like this.  You have heard it said….  But I want to take it to the next level and give you its full meaning…  Christ could handle God’s Word accurately.  He recognized false teachings when it was presented and not only said He didn’t believe it but also was able to rebut it with truth.  This is what a disciple must be able to do if he/she is going to be salt and light in the world and it will require him/her to be well trained and equipped for spiritual warfare.

When parents send their children into secular, postmodern, anti-Christian environments as salt and light, they are declaring that their children are disciples of Jesus who know truth, can rightly divide/apply God’s Word, have denied themselves and can endure the hardships of being a soldier who avoids the things of the world.  This is a pretty big order for any Christian adult much less for young children.

I can remember responding to a pastor of a large evangelical church who had just asked me how do I handle the salt and light passage when it comes to how we educate our children.  I asked him who came to Jesus in Matthew 5.  When he told me it was Jesus’ disciples, I asked him how many elementary age children in his church were disciples of Christ.  He said that none of them had gotten to that point yet.  I then asked him how many high school students in his church were mature disciples of Jesus.  He said that there were probably 4-5 that came to his mind who might qualify as a disciple.  To those statements I asked him the following question.  With the exception of those few high school students who may be strong disciples of Christ, aren’t you taking Matthew 5:13&14 out of context?

What do you think?  To be continued…

Glen Schultz

Author Glen Schultz

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Join the discussion 24 Comments

    • Kim Felty says:

      I agree that adolescents should not be expected to be salt and light, 24/7, without the nurture and preparation required for such a task. I chose to make the financial sacrifices required to send my children to Christian school because I knew they would be spending a significant number of hours there each week, and I felt the influences of godly teachers, biblical worldview curriculum, and like-minded students and their families would be extremely helpful in reinforcing the values we shared at home. But honestly, I did expect my kids to be salt and light at dance class and scouts and other extracurricular activities and I believe they were. So while I concede that none are able to be salt and light apart from regular Christian instruction and preparation, I don’t believe the parameters are as narrow as the author describes. It seems to me that our children, and other young believers, can be salt and light, to a certain extent, as long as they receive consistent instruction, enjoy a strong connection to a mature community of faith, and are protected from or on guard against those that would try to deceive them and destroy their faith. In other words, Christian students in public schools may be unable to be salt and light if their parents are unable to make the extraordinary efforts required to ensure that their faith is regularly reinforced, nourished, replenished and protected .

      • Glen Schultz says:

        Kim, thanks for your feedback. I will be addressing what our children should be doing and not doing in situations like scouts and other activities in another blog related to this.

  • I’m going to approach this topics from another angle, Christian’s school are not cheap and a lot of parents would love to send there children to one but can’t due to tuition fees. I myself am a single parent and as much as I would have wanted to send my child to a christen school it just wasn’t in my budget. Looking back on it to I didn’t seek God’s help either. I think we sometime just take the easy way out without seeking his guides .

    • Glen Schultz says:

      I understand what you are facing. I believe the church needs to step up to the plate and help single parents etc to educate their children biblically. The cost of providing children a biblical education is another topic I want to address in other blogs. May God bless you and provide for you.

  • RIck Yost says:

    Glen, this is EXCELLENT!! While I sympathize with these parents because of their WISH and DESIRE that their kids be salt and light, you have rightly pointed out that the vast majority of these children are not yet there. Couple this with the Deuteronomy 6 admonition and you frankly have an ironclad case for parents to insist on a decidedly Christian education for their children. But the cultural siren is just too strong and many parents are not equipped to stand against it.

    • Glen Schultz says:

      Always good to hear your views on my posts. I hope the next few posts will address this in a way to help parents and church leaders.

  • Greg says:

    Thank you for taking up this much debated arguement. Your analysis of Scripture is “spot on” and reminds me of what Paul said to the church at Corinth when his desire was to feed them with “meat” but could only give them “milk” – I Corinthians 3:1-2 Looking forward to the next blog.

  • Sheila Carpenter says:

    I know from past experience that we need that firm foundation in order to stand strong when we go out to be the witness that God has called us to be while on this earth. (I have a vision of a strong concrete foundation with strong pillars and then the building standing for years to come.) If we provide that foundation to the best of our ability God will honor. This foundation starts at home and Kingdom Education is so important if we are able to have it available.

    • Glen Schultz says:

      Building a strong foundation is so important. Paul said we cannot build on any other foundation than Jesus Christ. He won’t be found in a secular educational program.

  • Steve Murr says:

    I know as a parent, I will not send my children out into a secular world who will attempt to lead them away from the Lord. At the same time my prayer is that they are salt and light that point others to a relationship with Jesus Christ. I am just not willing to gamble that they are ready spiritually to withstand the pressure to follow this world. My oldest is graduating this year and we are seeking God’s will in finding a Christian college for her. I don’t have a budget for that either but we only have one chance to get this right with each of our children so we pray that we will find a way.

  • Tammy Vos says:

    Thank you for sharing the Truth regarding the topic of the “salt and light” passage! I have come to the same conclusion as you, that children are not equipped/trained to be disciples in their public schools. Though I have struggled to share with parents and others why this is so. Now, I have Biblical truths to share with others. As you shared in your article, a few teenagers may thoroughly be equipped to rightly divide God’s Word and could be “salt and light” in a public school. The parents and these few teenagers should pray and seek the Lord’s purpose for their lives in this decision. I appreciate your encouragement to parents, Christian school administration and teachers, church leadership teams, and other influencers in giving children a Biblical education. You are a blessing!

  • Glen Schultz says:

    I pray that next week’s post will add additional “light” to this all important issue.

  • Frank Lay says:

    Perfect! Finally a solid Biblical based response the the proverbial “salt and light” question. Amen! Looking forward to God’s continued revelation to you on this subject.

  • Tim Euler says:

    EXCELLENT Article! Thank you for leading Dr. Schultz. To the single mom that cannot afford a Christian School Education…Dr. Schultz is exactly right and the church needs to step up and provide resources so that every Christian parent that desires to have their children receive a Kingdom Education can afford to do so.

  • It was a joy reading this blog. I would like to address the single parent issue first. When a parent is a Christian and comes to my school and cannot afford it, I speak to the parent, I check the class. Of that parent has one or two children who would not overload the class for the teachers I allow the parent to enroll the children, pay before and aftercare and volunteer time to help offset the tuition.

    Parents, Pastors and educational leaders should be Disciples of Christ before they are sent out in the vineyard. This means that judgement calls must be made when it comes to educating our children. I believe that if the parents make a commitment, for “Christ I live and for Christ I will die” all things carnal will fall into place. If we believe that Jesus Christ is the Son Of God, as Christians, then we must believe that God will provide.
    Parent, make the commitment to do what is best for your child in spite of your circumstances, Paul reminds us “Without faith it is impossible to please the Lord.” Parents who use the verse in Matthew to support their decisions to educate their children in Secular schools are setting their children up to be exposed to worldly views and misrepresentation of being in the World but not of the world. I agree with the idea that “Jesus commanded every Christian to be “the Salt of the Earth and A City that sits on a hill and cannot be hid;”, however, if we are to appropriately address the salt and light issue when it comes to educating our children, we must first sit under leadership who teaches Kingdom ministry.
    This leader believes with all of her heart that you cannot put apples, oranges and tangerine seeds together and expect to get one specific fruit or the other. There are multiple factors that must be considered secularly and spiritually.

    Too much time has passed and parents have become too busy to bring their children faithfully to Bible study and Sunday school. Parent and children eat on the run and sports have taken the place of education both Biblically and Educationally.

    It is my opinion that parents who are Christians will follow the Pastor as he follows Christ. Pastors much encourage and admonish parents of the dangers of this World. I remember a conversation that I had with my mother. She was angry and I was upset as well. She said something negative to me and I responded, “It comes from the head down.” My other siblings looked on in amazement but I knew it was time to remind my mom of what she had taught us growing up. I was a child 12 years old and I knew that if I got involved in school activities it would provide me the opportunity to miss church because I would have practice at school. At the age of twelve I was attempting to manipulate my mother because I did not want to be in Church every day because she was a Pastor. I was so excited when I tried out and made the drill team at school. I was elected to student council. I would get out of practice come home do my homework and clean up. The Friday that I had to perform on the drill team. The Church had set aside that day for Youth night. My mom waited until I got all dressed and said to me sit down.
    I sat down and she said to me. Sister you think you are as “slick as okra is slimy” I asked her, mom what do you mean. She proceeded to tell me all about how proud she was that I keep my grades up and that I am on Student Council and the school Drill team but she wanted me to know that if those activities interfered with things going on at church that I would not be attending and that I stayed late after school every day for practice and that I would be attending the youth night at church.
    She explained to me that “I thought I was slick” because I hoped that she would allow me to miss church for the world. She reminded me that when she had me cut up okra for her to cook that it was slick and slimy and she used that analogy to remind me of her wisdom. She preached, “A wise woman builds a house and a fool falls for anything.” She took me to the book of Ecclesiastes and made me read. I will never forget. I had to read the 11 and 12 chapter to her while she preached to me.

    I was so angry and thought that my mom was the worst person in the WORLD. I wanted and longed to be with my father hoping he would be different. I could go on and on but making a long story short. I was permitted to participate in things that did not interfere with Church. She did not bow or submit to what I was attempting to pull over her. As I look back I appreciate the idea of us having Bible study and youth night at church and making us read. Now, I have parents who attempt to place their children in private school and they come to our small school to enroll the children and the children say “no mom, I do not want to go to this small school, I want to go to the big school where all my friends are. The parents often cave in and do not enroll the child. I say this to say, in my day it would be dangerous for a child to tell the parent what he/she would not do or does not want to do.

    If Jesus’ disciples were the “salt and light then Are we as Christian parents, Educational leaders and Pastors not the modern day disciples?

    Glen, I agree that “Christ’s strong charge to be the salt of the earth and light of the world was given to His disciples. It takes a disciple of Christ to be salt and light in this dark lost world. When we take this charge and apply to others who are not yet Disciples of Christ, we are taking this passage of Scripture out of context.

    We are definitely out of context sending our children to battle without the proper teachings. Paul in Romans reminds us that we “must put on the (full armor of Christ) to be able to withstand the powers of darkness. Is not the Armor the Word of God?

    So who would be a disciple of Jesus to whom He would give this charge? Yes! Again, we must look to the Scriptures for our answer. Here are some things that Gods’ Word states are characteristics of a disciple.
    •Disciples are Christians who are obeying all that God has commanded (Matthew 28:20). Obeying his command is to “train the child in the way that he/she must go. Separate from the world.
    •Disciples are people who daily deny themselves, take up their cross and follow Him (Luke 9:23). We deny ourselves and devote time to the up building of God’s Kingdom. We are his Sheep our children are future disciples but not yet developed. It is incumbent upon us as parents, Christians and leaders to guide these young minds to Christ.
    •True disciples are those who continue in His Word, know truth and are set free the captivity of false philosophies. (John 8:31-32). Is it Science or is it a creator of the Universe?
    •A disciple must be a workman who is able to rightly divide (handle/interpret) God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15). Yes who does Christ say are his disciples?
    •Disciples are ones who can endure hardships like a soldier and are not entangled in the things of the world (2 Timothy 2:3). We are constantly being tried and tested even by our own children, I was old enough at 12 to be conniving to make every attempt to miss church for the things of the World. Do you all think that is what the Word means when it asserts, we come into the World crying lies? Wow that is something to think about!

    Yes, Jesus is our example of this type of person. Yes, HE would challenge the teachers of His day. Not only was I twelve when Satan used me to make every attempt to miss church and ironically, Jesus was 12 when he was about God’s business? So does that means that Jesus must have deemed himself ready at that time to be a disciple for God, his father? You are spot on when you say, Christ could handle God’s Word accurately. He recognized false teachings when it was presented and not only said He didn’t believe it but also was able to rebut it with truth. This is what a disciple must be able to do if he/she is going to be salt and light in the world and it will require him/her to be well trained and equipped for spiritual warfare.” Amen, Amen, and Amen

    • Glen Schultz says:

      Thanks for sharing what God has taught you over the years. Parenting certainly has changed but God’s Word does not change.

  • Brad says:

    This is wisdom from the Lord. How many times we have heard the salt and light reason and thought it to be a good answer. Thank God for the spirit that reveals Gods Word. Thanks Glen

  • John says:

    Glen,

    As usual your analysis and wisdom is spot on. Thank you so much for your commitment and sacrifice to kingdom education. Your efforts have made a huge difference in our school, church and family. I would suggest that if Christian parents won’t take Matthew 5 in context that they then read Matthew 18:1-7.

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