There is a quote that has been commonly (and apparently falsely) attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “preach the gospel at all times, and if necessary, use words.” This statement is often quoted in support of a “silent salt and light” version of “evangelism” that is nowhere found in Scripture.
Simply put – we cannot remain silent and still fulfill the mission that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the One who has all authority in heaven and on earth. has given to us. We are His witnesses (Acts 1:8). That means that we must testify!
In Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus says,
“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. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. 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.”
The Lord Jesus is most certainly emphasizing the importance and necessity of good works as part of our witness to the gospel. Our lives should (to use the imagery of Titus 2:10) adorn the gospel. In other words, the way that we live should be consistent with the gospel that we believe and profess.
But what Jesus is not saying here is that our good works make the clear & explicit verbal proclamation of the gospel unnecessary. Our good works or godly lifestyle before the watching world of our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers supports or confirms the gospel, but it is not to be confused with the gospel.
Even in the above passage Jesus is presupposing that other people somehow know that the one true and living God of Scripture is our “Father who is in heaven” (v.16). How will they know that without us actually saying something?
Paul also uses the metaphor of “salt” to speak of how believers are to relate to outsiders. In Colossians 4:5-6, he writes,
Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.
Notice here also that he emphasizes both our walk and our talk, our lifestyle and our speech.
As Paul says is Romans 10:14, “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”
Ours must not be a silent testimony. Good works without the good news is at best like playing a game of charades – we just leave people guessing as to what the message is. At worst it is nothing but a charade, where the key witness pleads the fifth and refuses to testify at all.
So do let your light shine before others. Let them see your good works in connection with your verbal proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Then and only then will they be able to “give glory to your Father who is in heaven” because of your good works.
And, Lord willing, they will come to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and have God as their heavenly Father too!