Young and old, rich and poor, weak and strong, influence is something all possess. Paul wrote to the Romans in the context of respect for one another that “…none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself” (Romans 14:7). As long as we live in contact with others, it is literally impossible not to have influence on some.
Influence clings like the skin. Like physical matter, it can be transformed but not escaped. In a real sense, it survives our death, as in the case of Abel, second son of Adam and Eve, who, through his faithful obedience, “…though he died, he still speaks” (Hebrews 11:4). Those who die “in the Lord” are blessed, in part because “their deeds follow them” (Revelation 14:13).
In the beloved Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.” We understand that, in a positive sense, salt enhances the taste of food. It can’t be ignored. Likewise, Christians are to exert a positive influence in a world desperately in need of it.
Salt also presents an influence that is a preservative in food against spoilage. It can work to diminish evil influences in the community and, in so doing will help others live on a more godly level. On the other hand, Jesus warns us, “…but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” In the past, areas around the Dead Sea in Israel, roads were sometimes paved with salt!
Jesus followed his illustration of influence as salt by teaching, “You are the light of the world.” Again, influence is depicted in two ways.
Light is positive in that, like a city on a hill, it can’t be hidden. Look toward town at night and see the reflected light in the sky. Even though the physical structures may not be visible, we know where they are! The kingdom of God is intended to occupy a
conspicuous place in the world — not for the glory of its citizens, but for that of its Lord and God. Light, by its nature, isn’t intended to be hidden, but placed where “it gives light to all in the house.”
From another viewpoint, light dispels the darkness. Flip a light switch and the dark disappears! The amazing human eye requires light, just as the spiritual eye depends on it. Biblically, light and darkness represent righteousness and evil respectively. In this same sermon, Jesus said, “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness” (Matthew 6:22-23).
Salt and light — by God’s design, two of creation’s basic elements, chosen by Jesus to illustrate spiritual truth and encourage us to influence others in a godly way.