SALT AND LIGHT IN THE WORLD OF WORK
If you are a follower of Jesus living the beatitudes, you matter. You have an important role to play because you are the salt of the earth. Salt preserves and Christians help preserve what is good in the culture. In the ancient world, salt was very valuable: the Greeks thought it contained something almost divine, and the Romans sometimes paid their soldiers with salt. A soldier who didn't carry out his duties “was not worth his salt.” You are a seasoning agent. In a sense, you can bring the distinctive flavor of God's values to all of life. You can make life palatable.
Note that salt, to be effective, must be in contact with the meat or fish it is to preserve. To be effective, we must be involved where we work and where we live. This puts us in a tension because the dominant culture doesn’t necessarily like us. The majority of the time, living according to the beatitudes may make us more successful in work. But we need to be prepared for the times it doesn’t. What will we do if showing mercy, making peace, or working for justice jeopardizes our position at work? Withdrawing from the world is no answer for Christians. But it is difficult to live in the world, ready to challenge its ways at any time. In Matthew 5:10-12, Jesus acknowledged the reality of persecution. But in our contacts with the culture, we must retain our “saltiness,” our distinctiveness. It’s a balancing act we’re called upon to maintain.
“You are the light of the world.” The job description of a Christian is not only to maintain personal holiness, but also to touch the lives of everyone around us. At work, we touch many people who do not encounter Christ in church. It may be our most effective place to witness to Christ. But we have to be careful about how we witness for Christ at work. We are being paid to do our work, and it would be dishonest to stint our employers by using work time for evangelism. Moreover, it would be dishonorable to create divisions at work or a hostile environment for nonbelievers. We must avoid any possible taint of seeking self-promotion by proselytizing. And we always run the risk that our failings at work may bring shame on the name of Christ, especially if we seem to be enthusiastic about evangelism but shoddy in actual work.
Excerpts from the Bible commentary of Theology of Work Projects, Inc. at www.theologyofwork.org