The well-known musical Fame focused on the characters’ desire to achieve success and recognition. As one sang: “Remember my name, fame / I’m gonna live forever / I’m gonna learn how to fly, high / I feel it coming together / People will see me and cry, fame / I’m gonna make it to heaven / Light up the sky like a flame, fame.” Another hoped: “In time, we will all be stars.”
The biblical idea of being “lights” or “stars” is very different! Given all we’ve learned about light in Scripture, it’s rather amazing that in today’s passage Jesus called us “the light of the world” (v. 14). He Himself is “the light of the world” (John 9:5), of course, but He has passed on this identity and purpose to His body, the church. We’re to carry on His work in His name!
Light was one of two metaphors Jesus used to identify us here (vv. 14–16). We don’t generate our own light; rather, we reflect God’s light before the world. This is a tremendous privilege and responsibility. “Light” indicates good deeds that bring God glory, as opposed to good deeds done before people to receive their praise (v. 16; Matt. 6:1). To live in any other way makes no sense—it would be like hiding a lamp under a basket.
The other metaphor is salt (v. 13). Salt is a seasoning that adds flavor and is an important preservative. Its most powerful effects are to make food palatable and to make people thirsty.
Christians do all of these things. We can stay flavorful through committed discipleship. We should act as a moral preservative by living holy lives. And we must cause other people to thirst for the Living Water. To lose any of these qualities is to become useless.
People who strive for wisdom and righteousness— people who follow Jesus—will shine like stars (Dan. 12:3). Philippians 2:14–16 tells us how: Don’t grumble. Stop complaining and arguing. If that sounds difficult, try it for one hour, then one day, then one week. Don’t rely on your own strength; instead, pray to do it in God’s strength.