Webster defines influence as “to have an effect on the nature, behavior, development, action or thought of.” We are all influenced by many things whether directly or indirectly. Parents and teachers influence us directly through what they try to teach us. Influence is indirect when we just observe or hear what’s happening around us. It can be the old “do as I say, not as I do.” Dad warns us never to use curse words, but then we hear him cursing a “blue streak” in the garage with his buddies. Both will influence us.
The television shows we watch, the web sites we visit, the movies we see, the books we read, the music we listen to - all these and more influence us either for good or bad. Certainly, the people with whom we keep company influence us. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company corrupts good morals.’” (1 Corinthians 15:33).
Whether we like it or not, we all influence those around us. Most of the time, this is an indirect kind of influence. People see what we do, and hear what we say. Kids hear and see Mom and Dad in the home. Do they squabble a lot? Yell at each other? Gossip? Is the house kept clean? Is there prayer? Is there praise when someone does something good? Is there fun and laughter? Is the Sunday morning assembly of first priority?
Our Matthew passage is an encouragement for us to do good. In being “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world,” Christians do good and so affect the lives of those around them. Helping the needy, visiting the sick, praying with the grieving, sharing the gospel, et al, become ways to influence others for good when people see these good works which bring help and hope, and so bring glory to God.
On the other hand, our influence may not be so good. Do we complain all the time? Are we crabby? Do we avoid work? Are we judgmental? Selfish? Unfriendly? Controlling?
So, we have two questions for ourselves. What is influencing me in my life? What kind of influence do I have on others? Hmmm?