The focus of this work is to determine the meanings of salt and light in Matthew 5:13-16 as they may have been understood by the first hearers/readers with a view to application for Christians today. The Jewish setting in a Graeco-Roman context in which the words were used, gives the reader a glimpse of the possible world of the first hearers/readers of these paraenetic metaphors. The findings spotlight the fact that Christians identified as salt are to reverse the decay in society and preserve godliness by permeating society with the flavour of Christian character. As light the Christian is called to reflect the light of Christ through an obedient and devotional life that results in the Christian enlightening others in a dark world. An overview of the South African society today reveals the unique challenges faced by the South African Christian wishing to be salt and light. From the meanings of the metaphors, the Christian finds an exhortation that is embedded in values that affirm a distinct Christian identity, together with the task to permeate society and to be a positive influence in society, so that as a result, people can give glory to God.