What is it about Christians that makes them the salt of the earth and the light of the world? It is not wealth. The desire for wealth and the pursuit of wealth tastes and looks just like the world. Desiring to be rich makes us like the world, not different. At the very point where we should taste different, we have the same bland covetousness that the world has. In that case, we don’t offer the world anything different from what it already believes in.
The great tragedy of prosperity preaching is that a person does not have to be spiritually awakened in order to embrace it; one needs only to be greedy. Getting rich in the name of Jesus is not the salt of the earth or the light of the world. In this, the world simply sees a reflection of itself. And if they are “converted” to this, they have not been truly converted but only put a new name on an old life.
The context of Jesus’ saying shows us what the salt and light are. They are the joyful willingness to suffer for Christ. Here is what Jesus said,
Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. You are the salt of the earth. . . . You are the light of the world. (Matthew 5:11-14)
What will make the world taste the salt and see the light of Christ in us is not that we love wealth the same way they do. Rather, it will be the willingness and the ability of Christians to love others through suffering, all the while rejoicing because their reward is in heaven with Jesus. “Rejoice and be glad [in hardship] . . . You are the salt of the earth.” The saltiness is the taste of joy in hardship. This is unusual life that the world can taste as different.
Such life is inexplicable on human terms. It is supernatural. But to attract people with promises of prosperity is simply natural. It is not the message of Jesus. It is not what he died to achieve.