When we read Scripture we find Jesus often talking about salt. Back in the day in which Jesus lived they were not any fridges or freezers, maybe a cold cave here or there, so salt was mainly used to preserve foods and keep them from decaying and falling apart, it helped keep things together. Jesus also spoke about light and He was at times talking about literal light – candles in peoples houses. We forget how dark the night really is in our wealthy western world. Anyone who’s been stuck somewhere remote and away from the cities can appreciate how dark it gets, especially if the moon isn’t anywhere near full! In Jesus time there’s no ambient light in houses, no TV’s or PC’s and I’ve mentioned no fridges so that little door light is out too. When darkness falls it gets dark and houses get dark and these candles, these lamps become the only source of light. So imagine covering these lights and the darkness that then would surround you. You’d fall, you bump into things, you’d smash things, in fact the safest thing to do would be to sit down and not move a muscle!
When Jesus is talking about salt and light He is talking about two very important things with massive influence. When salt and light come up against things they improve it, they bring with them positive outcomes. Christ calls each one of us, those who call themselves His followers to be salt and light to this world. You are to be that influence, that situation changer. You’re to bring positive outcomes. Whatever it is or whoever they are, they become better because of your presence, physically or digitally. Your primary calling is to be salt and light in every single one of those channels of culture that you find yourself in.
When people who don’t believe or may not have much time for things of faith and God, when they think of followers of Christ the first thought that comes to their mind could be something like, “I don’t get them and I don’t understand them, but I love having them around and I love talking to them, because things are just better!”
Think about Zacchaeus from the Bible, a tax collector that got rich from being less than honest and exploiting the poor and the oppressed. When Jesus comes into Zacchaeus’s life everything is transformed. He realises his business is based on self-centredness, dishonesty and lacking any kind of honourable integrity. Read what happens after Jesus has entered his house from Luke 19:8:
Zacchaeus just stood there, a little stunned. He stammered apologetically, “Master, I give away half my income to the poor-and if I’m caught cheating, I pay four times the damages.” Jesus said, “Today is salvation day in this home! Here he is: Zacchaeus, son of Abraham! (Luke 19:8, 9 MSG)
Zacchaeus is absolutely transformed!
He goes beyond the Biblical tithing amount of 10%! Zachaeus is saying 50% of everything that comes in I’m just gonna give it away. I’m not gonna live on the 90% I’m gonna live on the 50%! And I’m not just gonna pay back damages of 20% plus whatever they’re owed like the Word says I should, I’m gonna give back 4 times the amount to anyone that I’ve cheated!” Take a moment to think how many people this cheating, but extremely rich tax collector had robbed. The clue’s there, he’s rich! That must have been pretty much everybody that he took taxes from. Zacchaeus is being transformed by the presence of Jesus, he’s being radical in his transformation. Jesus declared salvation has come to his house. Let’s be careful not to miss a very noteworthy point of this story amongst all the amazing things that Zacchaeus declares:
Zacchaeus doesn’t stop being a tax collector as far as I’m aware.
He doesn’t suddenly drop everything and enter into ‘full-time’ ministry – whatever that means now! He continues to be a tax collector, but he becomes a radically different tax collector. And you have to assume then when the other tax collecting bro’s start seeing one of their own acting in this weird and strange way, giving away so much more than he needed to, giving back to everyone he had ever cheated, and even simply collecting fair and reasonable taxes, they must have wondered what planet he was now on! But more than that you could assume that they would have been influenced by this. And let’s not forget that he wasn’t some ordinary tax collector he effected a region – he’s called chief tax collector. So think about how many people that looked to him, connected with him, did business with him, how would they now be influenced by this wildly generous and transformed man?
Think about the recipients of his generosity: the poor and the needy. Other than financial changes, how were these people influenced by him? Think about those in the region that suddenly found they had more money in their pocket, because they were paying fair and not exorbitant taxes. Finally his family, his household, his friends, they must have been impacted positively by this radically, transformed man. All this influence and impact because a man who simply collects taxes for a living had an amazing encounter with Jesus and was radically changed. From then on this man decides to function in a way that helps bring a degree of Heaven to Earth. All this from a man who collects taxes, because he decided to be salt and light.
You don’t have to work for the local church, or a Christian organisation to change the world.
Zacchaeus is a civil servant, someone who works for the Inland Revenue if you like, yet we’re talking about him over 2’000 years later. He was someone who collected taxes, but decides to do it fairly and here we are today still telling his story.
You can change the world by just deciding to step-up as a follower of Christ and be salt and light right where you are at in your vocation. Just by deciding today, right now, I’m gonna be a restorer! I’m gonna impact positively my channel of cultural influence. Be like Zacchaeus and do what you do with honesty, fairness, responsibility, and integrity. All the things that this world desperately needs. Be generous with the resources that God has entrusted to your care. Be compassionate with those who are hurting. Be the person in your family or work that people come to because they know you’re a compassionate person and they know you care. In all this make people aware that you are the way you are because of what Christ has done in you. Like Zacchaeus you are the way you are because Jesus came to your house and you had an encounter, because Jesus showed up in your life.
Jesus doesn’t call Zacchaeus to stop being a tax collector and this isn’t unusual, but because we often focus in on the 12, we forget about the thousands of others he impacted that would have simply continued doing the jobs they were doing before they were radically transformed. They carried on doing these jobs differently and with greater influence because of what Jesus did in their lives through His teaching, His healings, His miracles and His ministry. Jesus called this people to remain in their vocation and to be salt and light in the world.
Only a handful He called to follow Him were told to leave what they were doing. To most of the rest he said: “I want you to follow me right where you are!”
After Zacchaeus met Jesus, he took the things he was good at, the things was trained and skilled in and used them to influence and to make a difference.
So what’s your ‘calling’?
Maybe your ‘calling’ really is to join others on ‘staff’ in full-time vocational ministry. There are some wonderful testimonies out there of folks that have left whatever secular job they doing and have made an amazing impact after choosing to work within the church channel even if it cost them thousands of pounds a year in potential earnings that they could have earned in other areas.
But maybe that isn’t your calling and He’s called you to be a Zacchaeus. To be a restorer. To be salt and light exactly where you are.