You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is not good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. – Matthew 5:13
Salt gets bad press. It is tied to hypertension, obesity, heart disease, and other ailments. The need for salt is questioned. The use of salt is discouraged. The presence of salt on many tables is more decorative than anything else. However, this was not the case when Jesus announced to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth.”
In New Testament times, salt was an essential and valuable commodity. The Roman government paid soldiers’ wages in salt. A good, faithful man was said to be “worth his salt.” Our word “salary” is derived from the Latin term, solarium, which means to trade or barter with salt.
Salt served a wide array of purposes in the ancient world. There are just as many views of what “the salt of the earth” means. Consider three primary interpretations of Matthew 5:13.
Salt prevents decay. To prevent meats from spoiling, it was packed in salt. Salt slowed the process of spoiling. Likewise, Christians are the salt of the earth, without which the forces of evil would have little or no resistance in the world.
Salt promotes thirst. Saltwater intensifies thirst; the more you drink, the thirstier you become. The pleasures of the world do not satisfy. Christians should cause unbelievers to become dissatisfied with the world and thirsty for God.
Salt provides flavor. Salt seasons. This is the point Jesus makes when he says, “You are the salt of the earth.” Christians are to the earth what salt is to food. Christians are kingdom condiments. Christians are sanctified seasoning. Christians flavor this insipid world.
We are the salt of the world for God. Believers live for the pleasure of God to make a difference in the world. Christians are not perfect. But when Christians live as Christians, we make this corrupt world palatable to God. Let the church be the church!
The Character of Salty Christians
Matthew 5:13 is a description, not a prescription. Jesus does not call us to practice moral or religious behavior. He states the nature of kingdom citizenship: “You are the salt of the earth.” What you are is more important than what you do. And the Lord is only pleased when what you do flows from who you are. God does not settle for salt substitutes. Character precedes and predetermines performance. You can make a difference by simply being salt. Act like a Christian! Conduct yourself as a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
God uses ordinary things. Jesus did not describe Christians as the gold, silver, or jewels of the earth. We’re just salt. But God uses salt. That means God can use you. There are some fourteen thousand industrial uses for salt. That’s a lot of possibilities! All God needs of you to use you is all of you. You are the salt of the earth. But God cannot use you if you do not get out of the saltshaker. In fact, God may take you out of your comfort zone, turn your life upside-down, and shake things up to make you useable for his glory.
The Conduct of Salty Christians
After describing his followers as salt, Jesus raises a dilemma. What if the salt loses its taste? What do you do if the salt is no longer salty? The point is that salt tastes different. When salt is used, it dissolves and disappears into the food. As the salt infiltrates the food, the food tastes different. What good is salt that is not different? If salt loses its flavor, what do you do, salt it? This ridiculous scenario is a driving warning about the great contradiction and severe consequences of worldliness in a believer’s life.
Many things that lose their original purpose can be repurposed to accomplished another purpose. Salt is not on that list. There is no such thing as recycled salt. Unsalty salt is worthless. Salt that has lost its flavor is not good for anything. It might as well be tossed out and trampled underfoot. This is the warning Jesus issues to nominal, worldly, and unfruitful disciples. Unfaithful Christians are like tasteless salt and invisible light. Get out of the saltshaker that your life can make a difference for the good of others and the glory of God.