From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 2 – A closer look at how God develops us as disciples
Another of the many purposes and objectives of a real disciple is that they should learn how to be both “salt and light” in this lost world. Each disciple is like a lamp. We are supposed to bring light wherever we go, lighting up the darkness of sin and ignorance that is in the lives and minds of those around us. That involves being an influence for good and helping others to know the truth.
But our duty as disciples extends beyond imparting truth to those around us. We are also to be of practical help to the poor, the sick, the elderly, the weak, the dying and so on. Therefore, as well as preaching the gospel, a disciple is also meant to make a difference to the world around them by helping to meet the material needs of those with whom he comes into contact. Here is how Jesus Himself made this point:
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.Matthew 5:13-16 (ESV)
14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
So, we are meant to share the gospel and make a practical difference in the lives of the poor and needy. It is not one or the other. That needs to be emphasised because too many of us opt for doing only one of those things, at most, and then ignore the other. For example, some will focus solely on teaching and preaching, but they place little or no emphasis on doing practical things to help others.
Conversely, many people focus on giving such practical help. But they downplay the gospel-proclaiming aspect of being a disciple. But it is not up to us to choose those parts of Jesus’ commands which we prefer. We cannot focus exclusively on those, ignoring the other counterbalancing things which He also said. If we do so we become at least unbalanced, and potentially even false.
For example many people follow the so called “social gospel”. They under-emphasise, or even ignore, anything which has to do with preaching about the need to repent and believe in Jesus in order to be saved. Instead, they focus solely on helping people practically, or on working for charities. But that one-sided approach is not valid. It is a rejection of what Jesus also said about being a light. That has to involve spreading the truth about the entirety of God’s Word in a balanced and accurate way. A disciple cannot pick and choose which of God’s commands are to be obeyed and which can be put to one side.