Salting Up the Earth
From one of our Lord’s greatest sermons comes this most intriguing of statements. How were the disciples of Jesus to be like salt? And why did he use an innate worldly element to describe how Christians were to be among the world?
First of all we need to understand the value of salt in Jesus’ time. For you and I salt is an everyday, readily available commodity that is found in virtually every home in the western hemisphere. But in Jesus’ day salt wasn’t nearly as available as today. In fact, salt was so valuable that it was often used to pay the wages of the Roman soldiers. We get our English word salary from the ancient practice of paying with salt.
Slaves in Jesus’ time were often paid for with salt thus the phrase “worth their salt” was used to determine the value of the person being bought.
So as the disciples would have understood the value and implication of Jesus’ comments in calling them (and also you & I) salt of the earth. Being salt of the earth represents several things in the Christian life;
1) Salts ability to enhance flavor –
Just as a little salt on our food enhances the flavor so the Christian’s life should enhance the people around them. Those in darkness should be able to recognize that there is something different about us that helps to bring out the good in people as we dwell among them. “…they were marveling, and began to recognize them as having been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13
2) Salt is pure –
Germs cannot live in salt. When God instituted the Law Covenant, he instructed the Israelites to sprinkle all the grain offerings with salt to symbolize the purity of what they were offering, Lev.2:13. Likewise, God’s people are called to be pure. As the “salt of the earth”, we are to present our lives as a living and holy sacrifice, Rom12:1. Everything we do should project purity; our hearts (I Tim. 1:5), our work (Prov.21:8), our thoughts (Phil. 4:8), our consciences (I Tim.3:9), even our religion (James 1:27).
3) Salt creates thirst –
Christians are to set a positive example by the message we preach and the life style we live. As people see you respond to life’s adversities in a profoundly different and godly way than how the rest of world does, it will cause them “to see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,” . Is our personal example creating in people a thirst to know more about God and His plans and purposes for our lives? Or do they grow to despise Christianity because of us. Mahatma Gandhi once professed that he admired the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. When asked why he didn’t then become a Christian he responded, “ I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” How does the world see you?
Jesus said “if salt loses its flavor, how will it be made salty again?” The question from Jesus is really a rhetorical one. The implication is it can’t. The only thing it is good for is to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
How does the Christian lose his or hers saltiness? To answer that one would need to know a little about the make up of salt.
Salt is one of those unique minerals we find today. Deposits found in salt mines are thousands of years old, and yet, it retains its taste of flavor.
Salt cannot spoil. Even if stored for extended periods of time, salt will still retain its flavor. Salt that becomes hard or lumpy still retains that salty quality. If we dissolve salt in water, the quality of salt still remains, just taste the water.
Salt is also very enduring. Salt will melt at 801 degrees Celsius (1474 degrees Fahrenheit), yet it will still retain its particular chemical composition.
So how does the salt lose its flavor, its saltiness? Only when it reacts chemically with some other substance will salt lose its flavor. In other words, when it is contaminated by some outside influence then salt becomes compromised and useless. Do you see the implication for the Christian?
Jesus reminds us that though we are in the world we are not of the world, (John 17:14-15). John warns us that we are not to “love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (I John 2:15).
God has called us out of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of His beloved son. Just as God separated the light from darkness in the Genesis account, so He has admonished us to be separate from the world. (II Corinthians 6:14-18)
There is nothing sadder to see then a worldly Christian who has no positive impact on a dark and dying world because they have become part of that world. When Jesus told the parable about the sower and the seed he described aptly the condition of such people. The seed that fell among thorns were those who heard the word of God but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entered in, choked the word and they became unfruitful, they became worldly people, undistinguished from those that they dwelt among. They have indeed, lost their unique flavor and are not even fit for the soil or the dunghill. (Luke 14:35)
"You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.”