Matthew 5:13-16

A Kingdom Citizen Purpose
Pastor Nate Bucher

Matthew 5:13-16


Last week as we covered the beatitudes we saw this general picture of a Kingdom Citizen. The grand scope of the Sermon is all about this Kingdom Citizenship. So you will hear a lot about that — And I would be remiss if I didn’t just remind ourselves what citizenship entails.  It is an identification with a certain Kingdom — citizens can expect a certain level of benefit — protection, provision, etc…  The citizen by their own citizenship also is basically agreeing to a certain level of expectations for them to live by — laws, taxes, etc… Different kingdoms have differing citizenship rights and expectations to abide.

So as Jesus sits on this grassy hill teaching the crowds and His disciples, we find that He is describing life in His Kingdom, what His citizens will look like, what they can hope for.  Throughout the rest of Matthew’s Gospel Jesus will go on to display perfectly the citizenship of Heaven — Then make the way possible for us to be citizens of Heaven alongside Him— With His death, and resurrection—and His ascension back to Heaven.

But, alas, we are not with the ascended Christ Jesus in His Kingdom of Heaven yet. So Jesus continues His Sermon — still in this general perspective — not giving specifics in life situations, but rather, principles to be lived out. This portion of text is focused on purpose — Since we are not with God, in His place, with His people, under His rule yet, what is our purpose here but citizens of a new Kingdom?  That is the question we want to answer in this passage —

What does a Citizen of Heaven look like?

We are to live with a purpose — we have a mission — we are not to sit idly by looking to the sky waiting for His return. That is what Jesus reveals to us through this next passage.  Two images to help us better grasp the purpose of a citizen of heaven.


Just for clarification sake — Kingdom of Heaven, Kingdom of God, or when I refer to The Kingdom (capitalized) — these are synonymous to each other.

Read 5:13

Grammatically the last “Blessed” or μακάριοι which we spoke about it as flourishing— is written differently its not just to “those” its written to “you” in the plural — so “ya’ll”. This is the same construction, so Matthew records Jesus’ intent with directing this to a more personal level.  Jesus is making it more tangible or at reach of the individual listening, even though He is still speaking to the crowds and disciples.  The implication is that — You who have declared your allegiance to “my” Kingdom — this is for ya’ll!

[You poster on screen]


Ya’ll are the salt of the earth.  With this statement becoming a cultural colloquialism — speaking highly of people— really getting to the idea that their addition in our world is a good thing.   That is high praise that speaks to how they interact in our world. But Jesus is saying ya’ll that are in my Kingdom — Ya’ll are good for the world that is corrupt — Your addition in the world has benefit — it has purpose. Salt does the obvious thing that it adds taste to food. It seasons whatever you are eating, makes it the flavor enhanced.  A quick google search led me to this description:

“Salt is used as a universal flavour improver because at low concentrations it will reduce bitterness, but increase sweet, sour and umami, which is desirable for sweet recipes. But at higher concentrations it suppresses sweetness and enhances umami, which is good for savoury things.” [ 1]

The purpose of Salt is to enhance — maybe even to make that food flourish. My grandpa even used to put salt on green olives; he thought it enhanced them even more. The other thing that Salt does is that it has a preserving quality. Before refrigeration all meats would be heavily salted to brine the meat and preserve it. It would not keep it indefinitely, but greatly lengthen the time it took spoil. But think even deeper in this image of salt — it’s fundamentally different than what it has been added to.  Whether its for flavor or preservation — it has a different quality of itself.

But look at the rest of verse 13 — if it loses its saltiness — if it does not retain its qualitative difference— its good for nothing.  Jesus said it should just become the ground that we walk on — 

It’s not living up to its purpose.  If there is no saltiness — then there is no reason to use It for flavor or for preservation for it will fail on both accounts to fulfill its purpose.

Some of you might be thinking— can salt actually lose its saltiness?  John Stott comments about that—

Now, strictly speaking, salt can never lose its saltness. I am given to understand that sodium chloride is a very stable chemical compound, which is resistant to nearly every attack. Nevertheless, it can become contaminated by mixture with impurities, and then it becomes useless, even dangerous.” [2]

He continues to speak of the area around the dead sea there would be a white powder that would have a salt mixture and looked like salt, but was all sorts of soil and not useful for salts intended purpose. Salt has to be pure and retain its essential quality to perform its purpose.

Point 1:

A Kingdom Citizen purposely and fundamentally retains their difference from the world. 

This is crucial — we are to be different — but we are to fulfill a purpose.  We are to enhance — to preserve. We are to be added into this world, but we have to qualitatively different than what we’re being added to. That’s what Jesus is telling us — if Ya’ll are in my Kingdom you will be in the midst of this corrupted world — adding and preserving. Martyn Lloyd-Jones puts an exclamation point on this:

“The glory of the gospel is that when the Church is absolutely different from the world, she invariably attracts it. It is then that the world is made to listen to her message, though it may hate it at first.” [3]



Next we move into the addition of another image — light.

Read 5:4-15

So Jesus continues to play on this idea of purpose — salt has a purpose as does light.  So again ya’ll are the light of the world. 

You are also a city on a hill.  The implied purpose?  Visibility — Why would a city need to be seen on a hill? If we think about the context and the tribal warfare that would have been a normal part of life, the villages would need to be able to see quickly where their safe haven was in the midst of attack.  A city on a hill is an example of what that Kingdom is about — what it offers.  You can see its protective walls — you can see what and where their citizens seek refuge.

So just as visible as the city on the hill is — light would not be put under a basket.  “Hide it under a bushel no! I’m going to let it shine!”  Just like the kids song from earlier. What would be the point to cover the light?  It defeats the purpose of the light — to be visible — to bring clarity — to illuminate the darkness.  But if that light is covered, it can’t perform its intended purpose — to give light to the whole house — to make visible the things that are in darkness.

We must think about these purposes in light (haha) of being Kingdom Citizens. To which we must think about what the fulfillment of those intended purposes do for the world in which we find ourselves.

Think again about the salt and its purpose.  This world is often a poor taste — we see things in our world that are utterly sinful and leave a bad taste in our mouth.  We see pain both physical and emotional — that doesn’t enhance this life.  The bitterness of the world needs to be compensated for by the salt — by us. Look at the corruption of the world, not just of our politics, but the things that are spoiling — degrading — dying:  relationships— even the environment to an extent — physical life itself. These things are all corrupting — but we as salt — we want to preserve.

Same with light — we Kingdom Citizens are light — people are literally wondering around in the darkness. We can’t force people to walk in the shining of the light — they could walk away from the lightchoose darkness. But, nonetheless we are to be light — we are to illumine the path to human flourishing.

That is the outcome of performing these purposes as salt and light — we want humans to find ultimate flourishing.  Jesus wants us to find ultimate flourishing — and He knows that it is only found in Him — in HIs Kingdom — under His rule.

But also — Jesus wants us to flourish while we are here.  That is why He is teaching — He wants His people to flourish — and part of that is by fulfilling their purpose as His people. As His citizens!  We want this society to flourish — we want to preserve, enhance, and illuminate the sinful world that we live in.  We know we will never bring ultimate preservation, enhancement or illumination, but yet we want to mirror that for people to know and see what it is that is to come.

Stott again,
“The world also demonstrates a constant tendency to deteriorate. The notion is not that the world is tasteless and that Christians can make it less insipid (‘The thought of making the world palatable to God is quite impossible’), but that it is putrefying. It cannot stop itself from going bad. Only salt introduced from outside can do this. The church, on the other hand, is set in the world with a double role, as salt to arrest—or at least to hinder—the process of social decay, and as light to dispel the darkness.”  [4]

Though as we are to see yet — this is not by force — not by coercion. But it is crucial — for society to flourish — we must represent our true Kingdom allegiance — to the Kingdom of Heaven. We must live out our purposes as these images show.


Point 2:

A Kingdom Citizen is responsible to act as such in order for the society to flourish.  Jesus is showing us we do have a responsibility — this is part of the expectation to living in His Kingdom — Not as a checklist — but as simply part of our new life in the new Kingdom.



Next, we move to our last verse of the purpose-driven citizen….Sounds like that could be a best-seller — 🙂

Read 5:16

So Jesus summarizes this general perspective of Kingdom Citizenship by exclaiming that— Ya’lls saltiness and light giving is so that you will fulfill your purpose before others and in turn they will glorify God on account of it!  Just as the light’s purpose is to illuminate the dark places, it should be visible to all those around us.  We don’t let our light’s shine just at the places in which that is deemed acceptable – Church, at home, in a coffee shop by yourself — No, we let our light shine in every manner of life that we find ourselves. Our good works are ways that our light shines — ways that we display our saltiness. 

These good works again do not achieve admission into the Kingdom, but are natural actions of Kingdom Citizens. We are meant to ease the bitterness of life for those around us — again we can’t ultimately — but tangibly.  We counsel those who are lost and wondering in the dark — not just by telling them they need to be saved by Jesus — yes they do! But we give counsel — we ask questions — we give biblical advice.  We advocate for things that are biblically outlined as ways the society is to flourish — not out of spite or contention — but out of desire for humanity to flourish.

All of this is done — because it points back to our KingPeople see these good works — these works of salt and light —  And they are made to wonder, who do they follow? They must think, “wow, they don’t even agree with my life — yet they want to see me flourish”.  This is not done just through our actions, people need to HEAR the Gospel — but their seeing the Gospel in action might be the first way for the Spirit to soften them in order to HEAR the Gospel!

We do all of these works to the Glory of God! We don’t do it for our own ticket to heaven, or for us to look right in other people’s eyes!  We do it so that they might Glorify God just as we do. Ultimately our purpose as Kingdom Citizens is to glorify God.  Jesus wants us to see that we are Kingdom Citizens with a purpose — we have a general motivation for our life here in this sinful world.


Point 3:

A Kingdom Citizen displays their Kingdom objectives by actively doing good works.  Again, this is not just a wise guy giving good advice — a 10 step process to living our best life.  No, it is a reversal of the corrupted kingdoms of the world — and it is meant to be acted upon.

Pennington adds:

“The conclusion of the introduction [5:1-16], highlights the need for a real, whole-person active behavioral response to Jesus’ teaching.” [5]

We are to act.  Not just listen. Those that have moved from being one amongst the crowd to one of His disciples will inherently respond by action. So, I believe that we have seen how this imagery works out in our lives quite well already, but I have two concluding statements I’d like you to take with you.


Take away – 1

We must embrace and recognize our own distinct Kingdom nature in the world.

Take away – 2

We must actively fulfill our purpose as salt and light in this corrupt dark world.

Yet, we are merely human. Jesus has lofty ambitions in this beginning of His Sermon — in this general overview of what the character and purpose of His citizens are. We need the Spirit first. We need to be regenerated by Him to act as a Kingdom Citizen should.

When we have realized our need for a Savior — that we have sin that separates us from God — and have trusted that Jesus is that Savior — When we realize our poverty of Spirit, mourn our sin, and thirst for His righteousness,  He is faithful to provide — He has justified us by His death, and resurrection.  We are then being sanctified by His Spirit — Made new — Made to be like His Kingdom Citizens.

This is the offer for you — whether you have placed your faith in Him 50 years ago or haven’t yet — everyday we must realize the Gospel’s power in our lives. If you haven’t yet responded to that Gospel — respond when I pray.  Then all of us that have heard these words — Be Salty — Be Illuminating.




1 Luis Villazon, Why Does Salt Enhance Flavor?, Science Focus (

2 John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 60

3 D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, MI : W.B. Eerdmans, 1976), 129-137

4 John R. W. Stott and John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7): Christian Counter-Culture, The Bible Speaks Today (Leicester; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1985), 59

5 Jonathan T. Pennington, The Sermon on the Mount and Human Flourishing (Grand Rapids, MI : Baker Academic, 2017), 167