Jesus had gathered some of his disciples around Himself and started teaching what is known as the Sermon on the Mount. One of the things He said was: “‘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 underfoot by people.’” (Matthew 5:13 NASB)
This has somewhat puzzled me over the years. I did some research about salt, and found statements about how salt is “an incredibly stable” compound that “won’t degrade and lose flavor over time.” (Source: realsalt.com) So how can it become tasteless and good for nothing? That same source said this: “Interestingly, though, salt back in the New Testament times often did lose its ‘savor.’ In those days, salt was generally not pure. It contained multiple other compounds, most of which held up to humidity better than sodium chloride. So, if the salt was exposed to the typical humidity of a place like Israel, the sodium chloride would eventually evaporate while the other compounds wouldn’t, leaving behind a white substance that appeared to be salt but had none of its flavor.”
“Today, salt is easy to come by in our culture, and we don’t necessarily need it as a preservative because of refrigeration. But to the people of Jesus’ day, salt was an important and precious commodity. So, when Jesus told His disciples that they were ‘the salt of the earth,’ He meant that believers have value in this world and are to have a preserving influence (Matthew 5:13).” *
This teaching of Jesus most certainly came from the experiences of that day, so we should look at it through those eyes. Trying to look at that teaching through the lens of the modern day stable salt products that we use (which does not lose its flavor), can make it confusing.
For ages, salt has been used as a preservative to keep foods from spoiling; and, it is also a flavor enhancer. Have you ever eaten an egg with no salt at all? Pretty tasteless, right? Any food that is prepared and served with no salt at all tends to be less satisfying much of the time. Salt can help bitter foods taste less bitter, it can help gamy foods be more palatable and it can make sweet things taste sweeter.
Taking Jesus’ words “You are the salt of the earth…” really can be a positive affirmation for us, especially with what we know about salt – that it can be a preservative and an enhancer. But those words are even “…more than a positive affirmation; they are an indication of our responsibility.” (Chris Tiegreen) [Emphasis mine]
So what is our “responsibility” as “salt of the earth”? We are to do everything we can to not allow ourselves to become “tasteless” – which seems to me to equate to becoming less potent. One article I read related it like this: “…salt is always salt. Yet it becomes more tasteless the more it is diluted. In a cup of water, for instance, a teaspoon of salt makes the water too salty to drink. But in ten gallons of water, a teaspoon of salt is barely evident. So, although it is practically impossible for salt to lose its saltiness, it can be so diluted that it becomes undetectable by the tongue.” **
Okay, so then we need to determine how, as Christians, our worth can become so diluted that we are basically useless. I believe there are many things that could cause that to happen. We neglect our quiet time when we can read and study God’s Word and the prayer that should go hand-in-hand with that; we neglect to join with other believers for a time of learning and worship; we allow other people or things to move up in importance to the point they are a distraction – becoming so important that we spend time and effort with/for them over and above what we should for a healthy Christian life. Then a real biggie is when we allow ourselves to fall so far over into the carnal world that no one can distinguish us as a Christian. If we get to a point that people we associate with cannot say without reservation that we are Christian, then we have allowed our saltiness to be diluted to the point it is no longer recognizable. Our Christian value has been diminished and our influence fades when there is no difference in our behavior and that of unbelievers around us.
If we determine that we have allowed the things of the world to become between us and God and have lost our saltiness, then what we must do to regain our value is to repent. Ask for forgiveness then take the steps required to turn around and get back to the life we should be living.
The world we are living in now needs us more than ever – it is so upside down and backwards and there is so much evil permeating our society. We must take our role seriously to help preserve and enhance God’s precious way of life, believing that we can help make a difference in the lives of others.
So, how about you? How salty are you?
Written by Karran Martin – December 8, 2020
*From GotQuestions.org – “Question: ‘What is a salt covenant?’”
**Article title “Loss of Saltiness” written by Dr. D. Lance Waldie – Harvest Bible Church