When you walk into a room, particularly at night, what is the first thing you do? Reach to turn on the light?
When you are about to enjoy French fries or popcorn, what do you do? Sprinkle on some salt?
Why do we flip on a light or add salt to our food? We do those things because they make a difference. They change things. Light dispels darkness and allows us to feel safe and to see where we’re going. Salt enhances the flavor of food. We notice if light or salt are missing. They make a difference.
That’s why Jesus once said of his followers, “You are the salt of the earth” and “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13, 14). He wasn’t only comforting us with the reassurance that our lives count for something, though that was surely part of his point. But he was also challenging us to ensure that our lives make a difference – that we change things for the better. Everybody has influence in the world. The question is whether it is positive or negative.
Bill Bright, founder of Campus Crusade for Christ, shared the following two examples of the kind of influence a person may exert on the world. Max Jukes lived in New York. He did not believe in Christ or in Christian training. He refused to take his children to church, even when they asked to go. At last count, he has had 1,026 descendants; 300 were sent to prison for an average term of 13 years; 190 were public prostitutes; 680 were admitted alcoholics. When this story was written, his family had cost the state in excess of $420,000. They made no contribution to society.
By contrast, Jonathan Edwards lived in the same state, at the same time as Jukes. He loved the Lord and saw that his children were in church every Sunday, as he served the Lord to the best of his ability. He has had 929 descendants, of these 430 were ministers; 86 became university professors; 13 became university presidents; 75 authored good books; five were elected to the United States Congress and two to the Senate. One became Vice President of his nation. His family never cost the state one cent but has contributed immeasurably to the life of plenty in this land today.
Jesus certainly made a difference. If we follow him, we must too.