You Are Salt
Last week we talked about how Jesus calls us to be different. This week we will explore how Jesus calls us to make a difference.
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.
As we focused on last week Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth…You are the light of the world.” It’s not his follower’s actions that produce salt and light in the world, it is they themselves. It is the people they have become who are the salt and light of the earth. He does not tell them to be salty or that the things they do will be like salt and light. Being both salt and light is an essential part of the Christian life.
This week we are focusing on what it means to be salt and light. Salt had a variety of uses in the ancient world: cleaning and purifying, seasoning, preservation, destruction of crop fields, in the Old Testament it could be put on sacrifices to demonstrate the eternality of the covenant. Deciding which use is in view here is quite difficult with little contextual clues. The most likely options are: 1. the general usefulness of salt to the world, 2. preservation, 3. cleaning, purifying, 4. seasoning. All of these make sense to what Jesus is saying and apply to our series. 1. Christians should be especially fulfilling the creation mandate, building culture and being useful to the world. 2. Followers of Jesus should be preserving the cursed creation from constant decay and deterioration, fighting back evil in communities that hasten destruction of relationships, creation, etc. 3. Followers of Jesus should also be purifying our communities and cultures as we share the good news of Jesus and seek to bring justice to our communities. 4. Followers of Jesus should be bringing seasoning into their communities by bringing human flourishing as God defines it. They should elevate people’s lives even though it isn’t necessary. Because all of these applications work in the context I take this in the general sense that Christians are to be widely useful to the culture by preserving, cleansing, etc.
To demonstrate the usefulness and overall value of salt, in the ancient world soldiers were often paid in salt. Interesting fact for you, this is where the phrase “he’s not worth his salt” comes from. If a soldier didn’t perform his duties he didn’t earn his wages of salt.
The meaning of the metaphor here being general usefulness in preserving, cleansing, etc is supported also by Jesus contrasting negative statement on salt, “if it loses its taste (NIV saltiness) how shall its saltiness be restored. It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” The word Jesus uses here is indeed “taste” but I don’t think that narrows his focus to just its use as a seasoning. Tasting the salt is likely how they would determine its purity. Salt was gathered naturally from the sea and contained a lot impurities and contaminating minerals. Salt that was too contaminate was useless and its saltiness could not be restored.
So disciples of Jesus must remain salty—they must continue to function within the broader culture to season it by expanding human flourishing as God defines it, working to prevent the decay brought about by sin, disinfecting our communities from the effects of evil, etc. This is a long way of saying we must be culturally engaged.
ff to 4:40 for additional content
I’ve included a portion of an interview that I did with Kitty Cisler. Kitty is the communications director here at church and she is also an artist who does a lot of painting and photography.
How can your work bring value into your sphere of influence today? Let’s not focus on the environments that you can’t really have any influence on: global events, the white house, national issues. Don’t let your obsession with environments that you have no control over ruin your influence in the areas where you can be salt and add value.