Too Much and Not Enough

(Spectrumbot) #1

With all of the recent controversy surrounding The Surge, I have been thinking about the Christian’s role as an influence and a witness in and to the world around us. When I think of this issue I am reminded of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount– “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how [a]can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a [b]hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a [c]basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” These 4 verses give us two major parallels to describe our influence in the world, and by connection, how we share the gospel. Interestingly enough, these two parallels show us the positive and negative ways we can influence the world as well.

Jesus uses salt and light as an object lesson for how Christians should relate to the world around them. In reference to salt, Jesus stresses that salt that loses its flavor is of no use to anyone. How does this apply to the Christian life? I believe that Jesus is calling us to make sure that replenish ourselves with a fresh and new understanding of who Jesus is and what He requires of us. God is infinite and as such we can never say that we know all that we need to know of Him. When we become comfortable with our finite knowledge, it is then that we run the risk of losing our saltiness. I think Ellen G. White is a great example of this principle. Her vision of Christ and her understanding of Him changed as she got older. One of my favorite quotes from her is “We should not allow a day to pass without gaining and increase in knowledge in temporal and spiritual things. We are to plant no stakes that we are not willing to take up and plant farther on, nearer the heights we hope to ascend.”[1] White understood that the only way to prevent stagnation was to keep growing, to keep learning, to keep moving forward.

With light, the significant principle to understand is that our light cannot be hidden. This object lesson comes as close as possible to giving an explicit command to make sure that our influence is active and not passive. As Christians we should be making a concerted effort to live lives that reflect the light that is within us. Once again White counsels, “Every follower of Jesus has a work to do as a missionary for Christ in the family, in the neighborhood, in the town or city where he lives. All who are consecrated to God are channels of light. God makes them instruments of righteousness to communicate to others the light of truth, the riches of His grace.”[2] Like salt without saltiness, light is of no use to anyone if it is hidden. Of even greater importance is the fact that when a light is not hidden, it is of benefit to everyone, even those who did not specifically ask for the light. Regardless of whether we can trace the benefit of our influence or witness, it is still our responsibility to share what we have with the world around us.

While both salt and light have positive elements that Jesus stresses, it is just as important for us to note that salt and light also have negative effects as well. It is a well established fact that too much salt in one’s diet has negative health effects, ranging from high blood pressure to stroke, heart failure, and kidney disease. Similarly, salt is a bad thing for any particular environment. When we talk about salting the earth, we’re talking about putting so much salt in a place so nothing will grow there. We have to be careful with how much salt we share with the world as well. We might end up having a negative effect on people’s spiritual health. We might share so much salt that we actually choke the Spirit’s ability to grow in the human heart. Christians in their zealousness can become overbearing, heavy handed, or resort to methods that are oppressive as opposed to expressive. When we come on too strong, or too insistent, we can cause as much damage as if we were salt without savor.

The same is true with light. Jesus implicitly recognizes this when He counsels His listeners to “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven.” I don’t think we consider enough the idea that sometimes our light can be too bright. When a light gets too bright, there comes a point when you see only the light and nothing else. At that point the light becomes useless. The phrase “in such a way” implies that you can shine your light in a way that is negative as opposed to positive. Jesus shows us how that can happen when He implores us to shine our light in a way that allows God to be glorified. We can sometimes use our gifts in such a way that we draw attention to ourselves and not to the God who gave us the blessings.

And so, as with many other things in the Christian walk, it is important for us to find a sense of balance. We can’t be too salty, but we also have to avoid not being salty enough. We must shine our light, but not too much. When I look at the broad swath of Christianity, I fear that we are so afraid of being not enough that we err on the side of being too much. Unfortunately when we do that we cause as much damage as if we had done nothing at all.

[2] Testimonies, Vol. 2, 632.

Jason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

An excellent commentary on proper seasoning and illumination. however, In and of itself, I see no controversy in the Surge. The question of the Sabbath surrounds rest from ones labor. the issue of worship is not but tangential to that rest. there is no time which it is inappropriate to worship God, which is abundantly clear in Revelation. I know of no better illustration of proper seasoning and light than in the narrative sermons of Smuts. I haven’t heard him preach for at least 34 years, yet his sermons, packed with salty illustrations are still with me. the same is true of Paul Heubach. Yes, I can even remember M. l. Andresresan’s chapel talks back in 1941 and C. B. Haynes of the same era. Then Graham Maxwell Safe to Save. Not salty but savory. Tom Z

(Steve Mga) #3

When a person comes in out of the dark. The amount of light and the type of light can be unpleasant or pleasant, or can even interfere with seeing at all, if too much light.
Just the light coming from a small flickering candle helps to orient one who is in a dark room.
The Author does a great service to Caution us to Try to be More than ourselves around people.
We are to be Loving and Loveable persons. That is all. People respond to true Love, true Interest.
We are to be persons that other persons enjoy being around.
Perhaps to be a small, comfortable burning campfire in the cold night. One that attracts, one that
invites people to sit down, get warm, talk, perhaps consume an offering of food and drink —
A Eucharistic Feast.

(Steve Mga) #4

I took a car-less friend to AA tonight. Had no back up ride.
The topic was this phrase.
"Sought [Seek] through prayer and meditation to improve our [my] conscious contact with God as we [I] understood [understand] God, praying Only for knowledge of [God’s] will for us [me] and the power to carry that out."
Jesus said “Seek”. By improving my conscious I become more aware, I enlarge my peripheral vision about God. I begin to understand God’s will, and God’s will soon becomes my will. And He gives me the Power to do His will.
Is this Perfection? No. Because I am Only Improving. I am only improving to the point of understanding the revelation of Himself that He shares with me. Is it OK with God that I am NOT perfect? Yes, because we have a Relationship that we sustain through Prayer and Meditation each day. And it is in those moments that i receive Power.
Whether we receive THIS Message on Sabbath [Saturday] or Sunday does not matter. It is important that I DO receive the message. That’s all.

Another thought that we discussed was this. When 2 sinners [alcoholics] get together to help each other. What develops at that moment in time is Community. [An AA group] [Perhaps a church]

(le vieux) #5

I think that often the problem lies in the human tendency to draw attention to ourselves, rather than to our “Father who is in Heaven.” If your motives for doing good works were pure and completely void of self-interest, I don’t think there would be a problem with our light being “too bright.” Of course, Jesus had the proper balance and look what they did to Him. But, as He said, “the servant is not above his Master.”

(jeannie brown) #6

I agree, Tom. Smuts van Rooyen and Paul Heubach, plus Graham Maxwell, are all favorites of mine also. I plan to send for CDs of their sermons; I used to collect their tapes but having to declutter and downsize I’ve now discarded all of them. I’m so glad for this electronic age! I need to hear from Smuts now and then to recharge my batteries!
Blessings on you!