What comes to your mind when I say salt?

Most of us would think of kitchen salt, salt that you sprinkle lightly over food.

But is that what Jesus had in his mind when he called us the salt of the earth and light of the world in Matthew 5:13-14? 

I discovered that the Gospel of Luke defines explicitly what Jesus was thinking when he talked about salt and light.

“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” (Luke 14:34-35)

So when Jesus called us to be the “salt of the earth”, he was actually thinking about the field and the manure pile. He was thinking about the salt that was used as fertiliser in the field and disinfectant in the toilet.

And what do fertiliser and disinfectant do? They promote the growth of what is good and prevent the spread of what is bad.

What about the light of the world? Light displays. So with light, what is good can be seen clearly. 

But the reverse is true too. Light can expose what is wrong.

When the lights come on, all the cockroaches scatter. Why? Because darkness cannot stand the light. Light is confronting.

And this is what we as Christians need to do as the light of the world – highlight what is right and expose what is wrong.

God planted us in our office, our school, our campus, our neighbourhood so that our presence as the light of the world will point people to the good that is in God and steer people away from evil and wickedness.

We need to shine so that Jesus can be seen. 

The thing about salt and light is that their influence is not based on what they say or do, but simply by being who they are. Salt works by being present, light works by being there. It’s their distinctiveness that makes them special.

So your presence, wherever God placed you, makes a difference.

How do we function well as salt and light? Here are three requirements:


In order for salt and light to work well, they need to be of the right quality. 

In reality, it’s not physically possible for salt to lose its saltiness because sodium chloride is sodium chloride. But it can be adulterated.

A born-again Christian is a new creation in Christ. You cannot change that. But it can be mixed; it can be tainted by the things of this world.

Once that happens, we lose our distinctiveness. And once we lose our distinctiveness, we lose our effectiveness. 

This is why Paul warned us in 2 Corinthians 6:14: “do not be unequally yoked”. 

To be yoked together means to come under the same harness like two oxen ploughing a field. They will end up going in the same direction and having the same purpose.

This does not mean that we should only have Christian friends. How can we influence the world if so?

But to be unequally yoked with the world is to become one with it – to adopt their lifestyles, to subscribe to their values, to accept their methodologies. 

We become so like the world that people can no longer see the distinctiveness of Christ in us. Then our presence does not make a difference anymore.


If you think the salt Jesus was referring to is kitchen salt, then you will only need a little to get the flavour. But if He was talking about disinfectant and fertilisers, then you’d need volumes!

How do we fertilise a field with just a sprinkling of salt? How do you light up the world with just a candle?

So to be effective salt and light, we don’t just need the right quality but also the right quantity.

That’s why I believe in church growth, in church planting, in unity movements. It’s not that we want to build our own kingdom, but because we want to advance the Kingdom of God.

Let’s face it: There’s a huge difference between what a 500-member church can do, a 5,000-member church can do and a 50,000-strong gathering of Christians from around the city can do.

And when all the salt and light come together, a nation can be transformed.

So we must continue to be salt and light wherever God has planted us, so that more people can join us and get onto the lampstand. In turn, the world will be able to see and the earth can be impacted.


Salt is not useful as fertiliser until it comes into contact with the earth. It’s also not useful as a disinfectant unless it’s in touch with the manure.

So my point is this: Salt and light are meant to function in the world, not in the church.

What’s the point of shining the torchlight at the sun? We only shine light in places of darkness.

And that’s why I believe God did not call everyone to become pastors and preachers. He called many of us to function at the frontline of the marketplace so that the world may see.

So don’t go to school just to pass your exams or go to work just for the pay cheque. 

Your work will take you to places where pastors can never go. Your work will put you in touch with people whom they will never meet.

So where do we go from here? We must get ready to be scattered into the world.

The church is not meant to drift along with culture, but it has always meant to be countercultural. Every time we try too much to be relevant, we become irrelevant. Whenever we seek to be like the world to blend in, we start to lose our distinctiveness.

What do we do with the culture that we exist in? Let me outline to you four possible responses in which there’s only one correct perspective.

  1. Flow with the culture
  2. Fight the culture
  3. Flee from the culture
  4. Face the culture and fix it

Some try to be politically correct and accept what culture wants. We begin to lose the truth, and what is sinful becomes acceptable because we try too hard not to come across as judgemental.

Others become angry and combative against culture because we want to hold onto our convictions. Because of this, we only listen to people who agree with our views. We only relate to people who are of the same mindset. We don’t know how to love those who disagree with us.

There are also people who withdraw from the conversations because they think it’s useless to try to change the culture. So they retreat into the four walls of their church and do their own things. But this also means that they’ve lost the opportunity to be salt and light to a lost and confused world.

I don’t think we should flee, fight or flow with the culture. I think we should face it and fix it. We must engage the culture of our times and shine in the midst of a crooked and perverse world by holding out the word of truth.

Choosing to engage requires a lot. But the church must be present where decay is. We’ve got to get outside of the four walls of the church and engage and influence culture.

We are called to be salt and light, to preserve what is good and prevent what is bad, and then make a difference. So know who you are and live out your identity as salt and light of the world.

Because we are in this world, but not of this world.

This article was adapted from a message preached by Senior Pastor Benny Ho at the recent Hope Conference. Organised by Hope Singapore, it was held from June 1-2, 2019 and themed “Let the World See”. 

  1. How distinct are you in your place of influence? Can others tell you are a Christian?
  2. When you come across something in your culture that does not seem right, which of these responses would you likely gravitate to: Flow with the culture, fight the culture, flee from the culture, or face the culture and fix it?
  3. How can you make a difference where you are?