Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

 Sermon Text: Matthew 5:13-20

 Other Readings: Exodus 19:1-8a and 1 Peter 2:9-12


  1. Sometimes, our culture says about somebody, “S/he is the salt of the earth.” What do we generally mean by that? How does that usage similar or different to what Jesus is describing here?
  2. Think of a Christian whom you know and who you think embodies what Jesus commands in verses 13-15. Then pray that person if s/he is still alive and/or say a prayer of thanksgiving for that person’s life of faith.
  3. There is debate among commentators about what it means that someone might be called “least in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 19). Some think Jesus is saying that such a person is in the kingdom of heaven but has some sort of lesser status. Others think it really means that this person is actually not in the kingdom of heaven. What do you think? Explain.
  4. Agree or disagree? Why? “Being salt and being light always means sharing the gospel in any and every situation.”
  5. Agree or disagree? Why? “The most impactful way of being salt and light is sharing the gospel.”


  1. Various dictionaries stress the honesty of a person or group of people. It often seems like our culture also associates humility with the phrase. While honesty and humility are certainly important ways of living out our Christian identity, there is more to Jesus’ idea. He has in mind a Christian who takes God’s Word so seriously that s/he is displaying his/her faith in every part of life and in front of all kinds of people.
  2. God be praised for putting these kinds of people into our lives!
  3. Again, you will find commentators talk both ways. Reformers like Martin Luther and John Calvin argued that Jesus meant that such a person is not in it at all. No matter how you take it, the overall point is still clear: take God’s word so seriously that you live and teach according to even the parts that our sinful human reasoning might think inconsequential.
  4. We can disagree with the statement. Saint Francis of Assisi is quoted as saying, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words when necessary.” Now, we may quibble about whether one can preach the gospel without using words, but his encouragement still stands. Being a faithful, consistent, caring employer or employee so that you can serve God and your neighbor is still being salt and light, even if your work doesn’t offer (or allow) explicit conversations on the gospel.
  5. Agree. While we can let our light shine without proclaiming the gospel, we recognize that the best way to get people to glorify God is for them to hear the good news of the gospel. As Saint Peter put it, God made us his people to “declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”