How valuable is salt? 40 million tons are required each year to fill our needs. Homer called it divine. Plato called it a "substance dear to the gods." Shakespeare mentioned salt 17 times in his plays. Perhaps Leonard da Vinci wanted to send a subtle message about purity lost when he painted "The last Supper." In that painting an overturned salt cellar is conspicuously placed before Judas. In ancient Greece a far-flung trade involving the exchange of salt for slaves gave rise to the expression, "...not worth his salt." The human body contains about 4oz. of salt. Without enough of it, muscles won’t contract, blood won’t circulate, food won’t digest and the heart won’t beat a beat. Without a doubt, salt is the essence of life
In today’s world, salt is abundant and cheap, but it wasn’t always that way. Salt was hard to come by for our earliest ancestors. In time, people learned how to find salt and extract it from the earth. But it was hard work and salt was scarce, so it became a valuable commodity that was used for currency. In fact, the word salary is derived from the Latin word for salt.
Perhaps because it was rare and expensive, salt carried a certain prestige; even today, a successful man is “worth his salt” and a good man is “the salt of the earth.” Where did they get this idea from? Over two thousand years ago the master story teller, the greatest teacher who ever lived, used the commonly used substance, salt, to explain the nature and the mission of His followers. He said to them; “You are the Salt of the Earth.” Matthew 5:13
I. THE NATURE OF SALT:
Salt is perhaps most well-known for its roles as a flavoring agent and food preservative. Salt has been used by humans to preserve food for many thousands of years, but salt also plays other, lesser known roles in the food we eat. Besides adding flavor and taste to our food, salt for centuries has been used as a preservative. Way before the invention of the refrigerator (fridge) salt was applied to preserve meat and fish. That process was called the “Salting”
My grandmother used to soak mango pieces in salt water for a long time and sun dry them during the whole of summer and made pickles out of them. We used to enjoy the mango pickles for a whole year. Another function, of salt is its healing power. To name a few salts that heal: Sea salt. For thousands of years people have used sea salt to treat many different ailments such as joint pain, constipation, better sleep, and even sore throats.
Not to mention the wonders of Epsom salt and its countless health benefits include relaxing the nervous system, curing skin problems, soothing back pain and aching limbs, easing muscle strain, healing cuts, treating cold and congestion, and drawing toxins from the body. Let’s look at some of the Biblical references and uses of Salt.
II. BIBLICAL USES OF SALT:
In the OT salt was a necessary part of the daily life and diet. To “Eat salt with” a person meant to share his or her hospitality. Salt was always used in sacrifices to the LORD. Lev 2:13, “Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings and add salt to all your offerings.” Numbers 18:19, “Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.”
Why did the LORD include salt, in making covenants? As salt remains on the earth forever, similarly the LORD’s provision for the Levites also must be made available as long as the earth survives. In other words Israel must provide for the needs of the Levites by their tithes as long as they are in the service of the LORD.
Another reference of salt is found in Genesis 19, where we see lot’s wife turning into a pillar of salt when she turned back and looked at the burning cities of Sodom & Gomorrah. Lot’s wife (the pillar of salt) reminds us that we are not to look back at the world but focus our eyes away from the world and unto Jesus the author and the finisher of our faith.
The scriptures encourage Christians how to use their tongue wisely. In order to bring out the truth of words to be gentle, gracious, edifying and uplifting the scriptures use salt as a metaphor for its seasoning properties. Apostle Paul encourages Colossian Christians to be gracious in their words especially how they treat the outsiders. Col 4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, and seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
The apostle James warns how Christians must guard their words. In order to explain his point he uses salt water, and fresh water analogy. James 3:9-12, “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.
These two scriptures addresses the use of our tongue. Christians cannot afford to be having a loose tongue. Instead we are encouraged to choose our words wisely especially toward outsiders. Who are the outsiders? Anyone who is different, who have a different ideology and belief than what we believe. Jesus was more gracious towards sinners than towards the scribes, Pharisees and other religious leaders.
It is embarrassing to see how harmful to the cause of Christ, Christians can be when they lose their cool and get agitated with those who disagree with them. We are called to love and respect people regardless of who they are and what their belief system may be. Because they too are made in the image of God. There is no provision in the scriptures for Christians to use curse language or swear words. Ephesians 4:29, “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
The world needs more gracious people whose words bring healing. I know a pastor whose words are gracious, each time I have a conversation with him I come away edified and encouraged wishing that I too want to be like him. Coming back to our scripture portion, Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” When is salt most effective? Is it possible for salt to lose its saltiness? What did Jesus mean by saying to his disciples, “You are the salt of the earth?
III. OUT OF THE SALT SHAKER
After returning victoriously from the wilderness, Jesus gave one of His most famous sermons titled, “The Beatitudes.” The essence of the beatitudes is what happens to us when we have certain attitudes, may it be towards the poor, persecution, right relationships and the kingdom of God. Then he goes on to challenge them to move from just developing attitudes to action by coining this famous phrase, “you are the salt of the earth.”
The words, “You are the salt of the earth” explained to the disciples the scope of the gospel: “The Whole Earth.” The OT prophets who went before them, were the salt of the land of Canaan, but the apostles were to be the salt of the whole earth, for they must go into all the world and preach the message of the gospel of the Kingdom.
Secondly, it reminded them their function, like salt which is a preservative, relishing, and healing agent, Christians must go into a corrupt and morally decaying society and preserve its moral fabric by proclaiming the Truth. They must spread the good news of the gospel. They are to comfort and heal the broken hearted by sharing the hope giving words of Jesus.
But at the same time just like salt their words must be penetrating which can only happen by the power of the Holy Spirit. Just like when the Apostle Peter spoke under the anointing and the power of the Holy Spirit, people were convicted, the scripture says, in Acts 2:37,”they were cut to the heart.” Our job is boldly, and un-compromisingly preach the word; but conviction is of the Holy Spirit.
Christians, are the salt of the earth, but first they are to be the salt unto themselves. Mark 9:50b, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.” This scripture tells us that, we are to be in ourselves seasoned with the salt of grace. Once we have salt in us then we can be salt to others. Salt in itself is good, but of no use unless it comes out of the Salt shaker and mixes with food or the substance right! Similarly, we Christians must come out of our salt shakers and freely mix with the people in our communities, by doing so we will somehow rub our Christian beliefs and values to them.
In ancient times salt was stored in mud houses. Salt that was at the bottom of the floor if remained unused for a long time loses its saltiness and longer good for food except to be used as gravel to fill pot holes in the road. Similarly, our effectiveness and usefulness as Christians to the society remains fresh and is made available only when we reach out to the people outside the four walls of our Churches.
Out of the Salt Shaker” Our salt shaker could be our comfort zones such as our churches, and our homes. How do we do this practically? We go out and meet people where they are. We build friendships by connecting with them to understand who they are and what their felt needs might be. Where possible we invite them into our homes, to our church events like BBQ, mother’s day dinners, church picnics, thanks giving dinners and other social events of our Church.
But not only that we can be infinitely creative, those 40 or 50 hours you spend work are not merely to earn our bread on the table but I believe it is God’s purpose for his grace and love to be sprinkled out of the salt shaker through you, right there among your grumbling and complaining co-workers. We offer true friendship, Christian hospitality, build bridges and represent Christ in best ways possible. My prayer is that we will get out of our salt shakers and mix with the world outside by doing so we can truly become the Salt of the Earth. Amen