Influence And Example
I was surprised when I discovered that only one Bible passage uses the word “influence” (Job 38:31). Even there very little is said of it. Yet, influence is a mighty force in the affairs of men. I deem it beneficial for us all to reflect upon our influence and example upon those whose lives we touch.
Probably the passage of Scripture that comes to mind with most of us is Matthew 5:13-16. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Two comparisons or metaphors are used by the Lord in this passage: salt and light. Salt is a blessing when it retains its saltiness. Light is a blessing when it shines.
“Ye are the salt of the earth.” This statement came to signify a compliment in the eyes of men: “People like that are the salt of the earth” (Wm. Barkley, Commentary on Matthew I:114). Salt has at least three qualities worthy of note.
1. Purifies. The Roman world in which Jesus lived regarded salt as the purest of all things. If Christians are going to be salt in the world, they must be examples of purity. The world lowers its standards of honesty, diligence at work, and morality. By contrast, the Christian holds forth and exemplifies purity in speech, in actions, and in thought. The Christian does not withdraw himself from the world, he keeps “himself unspotted from the world” (Jas. 1:27). The apostle John wrote: “And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:3). Our world desperately needs the salt of purity radiating in the lives of God’s people.
2. Preserves. A second quality of salt is preservation; salt preserves and prevents corruption. Before canning and freezing techniques were developed, meat was preserved from spoilage by being salted. Christians are to have that preservative effect upon the people around them. There are some people in whose presence it is easy to be good and upright. Even worldly folks do not use profanity or tell a sordid story in their presence. A Christian is to have this effect on the environment in which he lives. The world needs his preserving influence.
3. Gives flavor. Food without salt can be tasteless. The Christian’s influence and example is to be to the world, what salt is to food. Life can be very distressing, depressing, and drab. The Christian can handle each of these situations with faith and resolve, without sacrificing his hope and joy. The Christian realizes this life is not everything; there is a life to come. The Christian lives in joy, in preparation for that other life, and can handle the problems that come in this one through faith in God’s promises.
These are the qualities of salt, but if the salt loses its savour or effectiveness, it is good for nothing but to be thrown out; trodden under the feet of men. Christian, don’t let that salt fail in your life. Be an influence and an example.
“Ye are the light of the world.” Paul said, “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8). In the Lord and from the Lord, Christians derive their light. Jesus said, “. . . I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). Christians are to be like Christ in this respect. Paul charged the church at Philippi, “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world” (Phil. 2:15). The darkness of this sin-cursed world desperately needs the light of Christ and his people. But, what does this mean?
1. A light is meant to be seen. Jesus said a city on a hill could not be hidden. Nor would one light a candle and cover it with a basket. The city and the candle are to be seen (John Calvin, Commentary on Matthew 274). So is a Christian to be seen. Barclay noted, “There can be no such thing as secret discipleship, for either the secrecy destroys the discipleship, or the discipleship destroys the secrecy” (Op. Cit., 119). The light of the Christian is not seen only at the hour of worship; it is seen everywhere, all the time. In all our dealings with our fellows, we demonstrate how the light of Christ and the gospel has touched and changed our lives. On the job, at school, at sporting events, and in the family living room, the glorious light of Christ is seen day by day.
2. A light is a guide. We need to know how to live in this world. We turn to Christ and his word to learn the secrets of successful and faithful living. The world around us needs that same light. “Let your light so shine.” Make the way plain and clear; show the people around you the direction they should go. That’s the message of the light. It takes courage and strength to lead as a guide. Not only must one know the right way, he must have the courage to lead others in it. If only one will lead, others will follow. The duty of the Christian is to take the stand, give the leadership, and guide those under our influence and example to the salvation which is in Christ Jesus!
3. The result of being lights. Jesus said two things will happen when the Christian is the light he is taught to be. (1) Men will “see your good works,” and (2) “glorify your Father which is in heaven.” We are affecting the lives of the people around us; we have either a good or a bad influence!
The eyes of the people of the world are on us, the people of God. What are they seeing? Are we helping them? Are we showing them the way they should go and live? Are we guiding them in such a way that they will finally glorify God and know the glory God intends to give to his people? These are important questions!