Summary: Jesus tells us how we are to be the salt of the earth.
What Jesus Said About Our Saltiness
Matt. 5:13-16 “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Jesus continues His beatitudes in His Sermon on the Mount by using two very precise and powerful metaphors to teach us the importance or our influence in the world in which we live. These analogies clearly and concisely describe the positive as well as the negative possibilities of the Christian’s influence. As a beginning background, we should consider the nature of salt and its function in the culture of first century Palestine as well as in everyday and time.
In the Roman Empire servants were paid with salt. Our word, salary, comes from the Latin word, “salarium. In the days of old, a man could divorce his wife if she failed to place salt in his food. Middle Eastern cultures have historically looked upon salt as a sign of friendship and hospitality. Arabs who have eaten salt together become friends and therefore cannot fight. They say, “There is salt between us.” A bag of salt was just as valuable and precious as life itself. Salt was essential for the preservation of food. Without salt, men would face the awful prospect of hunger and starvation for much of the year. Salt is a universally essential compound.
Salt is a simple combination of the metal sodium and the gas chlorine. Yet, industrial chemists have found more than 15,000 uses for salt in the manufacture of many simple and complex compounds used in making exotic and everyday products. God designed the human body in such a manner that a form of salt is essential for its continuing life and healthy function.
Salt can also cause harm. Expressions such as, “rubbing salt into his wounds,” reflect that obvious fact. The function of salt in adding good taste and flavor to food was perhaps even more important in that day than it is in our culture today. Salt has always played a vital role in creating thirst. Those who have worked in agricultural and other heavy work outdoors in hot climates understand this. Salt consumption is essential in preventing and countering deadly heat stroke. We should also mention the many vital functions of basic salt compounds in the production of other chemical compounds and products that are vital in every day living. I am sure the Creator and Teacher gave us this expansive symbol to help us understand our responsibilities relative to the essential nature of our influence for good or evil.
I believe that the importance of our influence in the world and our responsibility to influence the world for good and the glory of God is obviously the one central lesson of both these analogies. I do not know what particular poet first said, “No man is an island,” but I know Jesus is clearly canvassing the same concept. Paul would later be inspired to say to the church at Rome, “No man lives to himself, and no man dies to himself..” The truth of this is both challenging and sobering to the Christian who wishes to give himself to the service of his Master.
I once read of a most apt illustration of the inevitability of our influence upon the world around us. A parallel was drawn with the involuntary function of our heartbeat and breathing. These two vital functions continue without thought or intent upon our part. If not, we’d have real problems! So it is with our influence. Good or bad, positively or negatively, our influence has its continuing and accumulative effect upon the world around us as long as we live and even beyond our mere mortal moment of earthly existence. John the Revelator said, “Blessed are the dead, which die in the Lord ... and their works (influence) do follow them.”
But let us examine more particularly the qualities of lsalt that our Saviour may have been alluding to in His lesson. Let us examine how these may be applied to our daily lives in order to help us ensure the shadow of our influence and of our witness reaches out to the world around us; even to future generations. Let us determine to share the salt of a tasty testimony with a corrupt world permeated by promiscuity and darkened by moral baseness and spiritual blindness.