Matt 5:13 “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.”
Have you heard this verse before? I bet many of you have even if you haven’t been a regular church goer. You can watch a movie or see a TV show and sure enough someone will say “you are the salt of the Earth.” Usually the reference is related to morality in some way. I can see the preacher banging on the podium and declaring:
“You are the salt of the Earth. This nation is in the pits and we are the only hope. If we don’t bring morality to this planet all is doomed. If you don’t boldly point out people’s sin you have lost your saltiness and are bound for eternal destruction! The fire is coming! Judgment is knocking on the door!”
That isn’t what this verse is about, not at all.
Maybe you haven’t heard the red-faced preacher but you have heard the kind, gentle voice that says…
”We are a preservative like salt. Without us all this will turn rancid. We keep the world from destruction because of our moral saltiness. Our moral values and truths are what keep everything from turning bad.”
Still not it.
Maybe you have heard that salt gives flavor. I would say that is true. So maybe you heard someone say…
“Without our Christian salt the world loses its flavor. Our job is to bring the seasoning of life to everything around us. We make stuff taste better.”
I would say that is what Jesus said. The question is what is the “salt” He is talking about? Is it better moral values? Is it a better outlook on life? Is it more provision or blessing? Is it a heavenly perspective? It may be all of that but I submit that those are a list of fruits not roots. For example a “heavenly perspective” is a fruit of a relationship with Jesus. “Greater blessings” are a product of Grace. So I don’t think this is what defines salt but is what salt brings.
So what is the salt?
You are…He said it.
Confused? It’s OK. The confusion comes from millennia of teaching and one little word,”of.”
In the translation the word “of” is an amplifying word added for clarity. The literal translation is “you are the salt the earth.” The word earth could be dirt or planet or people or nations. I believe that Jesus is making a metaphorical reference to a very literal concept. He could be saying “you are earth salt.”
Salt in ancient days was very expensive. Salt was often used as currency. Salt was something that was difficult to obtain and was very precious to the people. It added flavor of course. It was a preservative for meats, no doubt. It was a necessary part of a diet for grain consumers, absolutely. I believe all that is true and accepted but I think Jesus was talking about the value of salt as much as the purpose.
Today salt is an everyday commodity. Back then it was difficult to harvest. It could be harvested from the sea through evaporation or from salt mines. Salt mining would not have been as prevalent then because of the intense manual labor required and no machinery like today. In some regions the salt was “leached” from the ground by soaking it with fresh water and letting it evaporate. So I believe when Jesus says they were the salt of the Earth it could mean literally “from the ground.”
The other interesting point is the context where Jesus makes this statement. He is giving the “sermon on the mount.” His audience is not believers since there are no Christians yet (Jesus hasn’t died on the cross). The people would have been Jews under the law. Under the law the people were required to conform. If they didn’t follow the law (conform) then they would lose their birthright, get tossed out of the Temple, be exiled from their communities and so much more. They could have been stoned to death. Their judges were the Pharisees of the day. These were very religious and pious people. They were hypocrites and money hungry self-righteous people with power of life or death (Jesus words not mine). So the people were held to a standard that was established by the religious leaders of the day.
I would expect that under those conditions, individuality would not be encouraged. I bet that questioning and probing would be taboo. I bet that personalities were OK in your home but not in public. I bet that what people said about you was more important than who you were. I bet your perceived behavior was your identity. I bet your conformity was your ticket to acceptance. It sounds all too familiar today, doesn’t it?
When Jesus said you are the salt of the earth I believe He meant you are the spice of life. He meant “you are precious to Me.” He was expressing His desire for us to live from our unique individual personalities. He was calling out our identities. He was saying that if we lose who we really are to conform to someone else’s idea of how we should be, we lose our saltiness.
Of course we have our hang-ups. Of course we have our issues. Of course we make bad decisions. But God made us to be exactly how He made us. He may have to “leach out” our true personalities from all sorts of dysfunction and disappointment. He may have to flush us with His “rivers of living water” to remove all the lies that we have been told by the enemy. He may have to “refine” us to bring out the best parts of us. Still we are uniquely who He made us to be. A person addicted to drugs is a person who has the capacity to be addicted to Jesus. He/she just may need some time in the purifying water of Jesus. He gave us a perfect personality and amazing skills to be a “one of a kind.” To change that in order to conform to someone else’s opinion is to lose everything He died to reveal in us. We are all unique people in the process of repurposing.
Now check out this passage:
Col 4:6 Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person. (ESV)
God made you to have an answer. It is your answer in Him. When you speak you are the only one on the planet that can say it like you can. Your testimony is the only one of its kind. You are not here to be patterned after someone else. You are here to be you. Even your imitation of Christ is the imitation of His relationship not His personality. No other person can be just like you. That is what makes you the salt of the earth. Praise God for your salt.