Salt of the earth comes before Light of the world

Rev Edmund Chan // May 20, 2018, 8:00 am


Salt mounds. Photo by Joel Filipe on Unsplash.

The term “marketplace” is a misnomer. It comes from the understanding of the Greek term agora – the market. But the agora of the market is not that place where you buy pork and fish and vegetables. The agora is the centre of commerce – it is the public square where business deals are transacted and city decisions are made. 

There is a critical call of God for engagement in the marketplace.

Think for a moment: Where do the majority of men and women spend their majority of their time interacting with the majority of the lost world?

It is out there in the agora, the public square.

God is calling you and me to see the Church rise up in her destiny and in her calling to make a difference in societal transformation in the marketplace.

The marketplace of the Bible

There is a biblical precedence for this:

  • Of Jesus’ 132 public appearances in the New Testament, 122 were in the marketplace.
  • Of 52 parables Jesus told, 45 had a workplace context. Of 40 divine interventions recorded in Acts, 39 of the 40 were in the marketplace.
  • Jesus spent his adult life as a carpenter until age 30 before he went into a preaching ministry in the workplace.
  • Jesus called 12 workplace individuals – not clergy – to build His church.
  • Work in its different forms is mentioned more than 800 times in the Bible, more than all the words used to express worship, music, praise, and singing combined.
  • 54% of Jesus’ reported teaching ministry arose out of issues posed by others in the scope of daily life experience.

Pay attention to the order that God has put in place: What He wants us to be and then what He tells us to do.

In Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth” Jesus said. And then He told them, “you are the light of the world.”

Two discipleship metaphors referring to two distinct things: The first, “salt of the earth” emphasises what God calls us to be. And the second, “the light of the world” is what God calls us to do.

The order is very important.

We must pay attention to the order that God has put in place: What He wants us to be and then what He tells us to do. When Jethro gave his counsel to Moses, he essentially said the same thing.

He said in effect: “Moses, this is what you are to do; this is your focus, your priority. You are running around too much, like a chicken with its head cut off. You will burn yourself out! You will not just burn yourself out, you will burn the people out with you.”

This was the counsel Jethro gave: “You are to teach the people two things: the way they are to walk and the work they are to do.” Exodus 18:20

Mandate before mission

I call this the mandate – the way they are to walk; and the mission – the work they are to do. The mandate and the mission come together.

In the New Testament, the apostle Paul said the same thing when he prayed for the Colossian church. He told them he would pray for them.

And what did he pray?

“I pray for you” he said, “that you might please God in every aspect and bear fruit in every good work.” Colossians 1:10

Please God in every aspect: The mandate. Bear fruit in every good work: The mission.

The walk and the work have a biblical order.

But we have reversed it. We are so preoccupied with the work, we forget the walk. The walk must precede the work; the mandate precedes the mission.

If we understand this order, then we understand what Jesus meant when He said we are the salt of the earth and the light of the world.

It is not the other way round!

In the times we forget that, become too pre-occupied, and reverse the order, we must come back in repentance before the Lord and say: “Lord, start again with me. Start afresh in me. Lord, I put my walk first, before the work.”


This is an excerpt of Rev Edmund Chan’s plenary session on Making a Stand in the Marketplace at the Grace at Work Marketplace Conference 2018, organised by Wesley Methodist Church in partnership with Toa Payoh Methodist Church

About the author

Rev Edmund Chan

Reverend Edmund Chan is a seasoned disciple-making pastor. The Leadership Mentor in Covenant Evangelical Free Church and Founder of the Global Alliance of Intentional Disciple Making Churches, Edmund is widely regarded as an insightful Bible expositor and a wise mentor of Christian leaders. In 1995, he launched the annual Intentional Disciple Making Church (IDMC) Conferences. He also serves on the advisory councils of several Christian organisations.