It 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…