Summary: Explaining the importance of us being referred to as the salt of the Earth.
“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 under foot by men.”
These word were spoken by Jesus in His “Sermon on the Mount”
How many of us have heard this verse before? I have heard it so many times in my life, but it wasn’t until recently that I really decided to sit down and dissect what that actually means. In order to do that, we first need to understand what salt meant to people back in the time this was spoken. Otherwise, we really don’t know the real significance of these words that Jesus spoke.
Salt’s ability to preserve food was a foundation of civilization. It basically eliminated the dependence on seasonal food availability as well as allowing food to be carried over long distances. It was also a desirable seasoning for food. But it was also extremely difficult to obtain, so it was a very highly prized commodity. So much so that controlling salt supplies could mean success or failure for an entire civilization. For most, it was an extremely valuable source of income; cities along a salt distribution route charged substantial taxes for allowing the salt to pass through. In fact, the city of Munich was founded for just that purpose. In the year 1156, the Duke of Bavaria, Henry the Lion, decided the Bishops of Freising no longer needed their salt revenue, so he burned down the monk’s toll bridge and diverted the salt route upriver a few miles where he built his own bridge over the river.
As early as 550 BC, around the time of the book of Ezra, accepting salt from somebody was synonymous with drawing sustenance, taking pay, or being in that person’s service. In fact, Roman soldiers were partly paid in salt. Did you know that the English word salary comes from the Latin word salarium, meaning payment in salt? Did you know that more wars have been fought over salt than over gold? Did you know that salt is mentioned more than 30 times in the bible?
In 2 Kings 2:19-22, we read of a story of one of Elisha’s first miracles.
Read the verse
Is anybody convinced yet of salt’s importance?
One of the most important factors of salt was its use as a preservative. Since there were no refrigerators back in Jesus time and in many places, there were no handy sources of ice, yet there had to be an alternative to keeping food from rotting. Salt-curing was one way to keep your food from rotting. Particularly with meat, salt would be rubbed over the entire piece of meat - basically blanketing it with salt. The salt would then draw the moisture out of the meat. This would create a very hostile environment to bacteria, basically keeping the meat safe. After about 4 to 8 weeks, the meat would be dry and could be stored that way for a long time.
Okay, so how exactly does that relate to our lives as Christians? I just mentioned how preserving meat with salt would create an environment that is hostile to bacteria; meaning that no matter how hard bacteria tried to get into the meat, it would be unable to. Shouldn’t that be the same with us as Christians? Shouldn’t we desire to be so permeated with Christ that bacteria cannot seep into our lives?
So how exactly do we preserve ourselves like this? By praying, by studying the word, by allowing God to dwell and grown within us more than we allow ourselves. But I also believe that Jesus is not just talking about ourselves being preserved against sin when he talks about us being the salt of the Earth. We should also be preserving other’s faith as well. We can do this by being the examples Christ has called us to be. So how does doing that preserve another’s faith? I don’t know about you, but there was a time in my life when I wasn’t so solid in my own faith. When I saw other Christians behaving in ways that weren’t along Jesus’ teachings, it shook my own faith even further.
The bible talks about this in 1 Corinthians 10. It teaches us that we need to act in ways pleasing to God and act in a way that wouldn’t cause another to stumble.
On the other side of that, when we see other Christians around us acting out there faith even when they don’t know others are watching, it strengthens us, doesn’t it? So by doing what God has called us to do, and acting out in love, helping others less fortunate, etc. we can help to preserve others faith.