While Christians are not challenged to become salty – their saltiness is a gift of Jesus’ presence – they are challenged to stay salty, that is, they are challenged to be what they are – real Christians. There are pressures around us not to be too Christian, not to take our religion too seriously, and to relax the war with what is despicable in and among ourselves and with what is unjust or vicious in the community. Though we are salt, there is constant pressure to be insipid salt. (F. Dale Bruner, The Christbook, Matthew 1-12)
“You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13)
In its modern day usage, this phrase suggests an “everyman” quality – hard working, humble, and lacking pretension. Since salt is such a common yet ubiquitous element, it is easy to see how we would interpret the phrase in this way. Nor would it be hard to imagine Jesus calling His disciples the salt of the earth. They were average, ordinary guys who followed Jesus, fishermen, farmers, and tax collectors. There were no princes in His entourage. And this is good news for those who follow Christ today. We don’t have to be powerful and well-known to be His disciples.
Still, I believe this common understanding of “salt of the earth” has lost something in the modern era. Today, when we think of salt, we see table salt, used sparingly to bring out the flavor of our meal, or perhaps rock salt used to melt away the ice and snow off of our sidewalks. But at one time, salt was a precious commodity, sold and traded in the market at high value. Not only did salt enhance the flavor of food, but before refrigeration, it was used as a preservative. Salt even had cleansing and healing properties.
So when Jesus said, “you are the salt of the earth,” it would stand to reason that he had these qualities in mind. Those who know Christ and the power of His resurrection, having their sins forgiven and their guilt washed away in the blood of Jesus, are now to be the salt of the earth. Jesus’ disciples are to bring the flavor of life to those who have tasted only the bland hopelessness and despair that a fallen world can offer. Jesus’ disciples are to be an influencing and preserving agent in the world, a positive influence of love and grace for the world to see.
Sometimes, though, the salt of the earth loses its saltiness. Now, technically, it is impossible for salt to be not salty. However, when mixed with impurities the salt can leach away and thereby the salt content is diluted. When this happens, the salt is useless; you cannot eat it, you dare not use it to preserve your food, all it is good for is being thrown out on the road to be trampled underfoot.
As we consider the call to be the salt of the earth, here are some questions to consider:
- Have I polluted myself with the things of this world: godlessness, rudeness, fighting, selfishness, lying, anger, envy, gossip, passions, etc, so that I can be the salt of the world?
- When I am around others who don’t know the Lord, am I a positive, purifying influence in their lives?
- When people hear the things I say, see the things I do, do they “taste and see” that the Lord is good?
May God grant you the grace to be the salt of the earth today.
Grace and peace,