You Are the Salt of the Earth
by Daniel R. Vess
As Jesus progressed through the eight beatitudes an ever widening gap grew between those who would be citizens of the kingdom of heaven and the nature of the men of the world. Now Jesus gives to illustrations of the positive impact Christians have on the world. They are not only to be good, but good for something. Salt works internally or from within the world. Light comes from an external source upon the world. The citizens of Christ’s kingdom have a powerful and positive impact on the world around them.
Properties of Salt
Today, salt is so common we often do not see its importance. Yet, in order to be the salt of the earth, saints need to understand the properties of salt and how it is such a powerful influence in this world.
Salt Is Valuable
The ancient world had a much better understanding of the necessity of pure salt. Romans would say, “there is nothing more useful then sun and salt.” At times Roman soldiers were paid in salt. This is where the saying, “he is not worth his salt” originated. The Latin word for salary is salarium and is in turn from the Latin word sale meaning salt. So valued were salt deposits in the earth that wars were fought, taxes were levied, and bags of it were used as currency. Salt was used in Levitical worship (Lev. 2:13).
Salt is so important there is not enough space in our study to list all of its practical uses. The Morton Salt Company has come up with more than 1400 uses for salt. In short, if it were not for salt life could not be sustained on this planet. Napoleon’s army was in part defeated by a lack of salt for his soldiers.
Salt Preserves and Prevents
Our forefathers knew the importance of salt to preserve meat and prevent foods from spoiling. Salt was rubbed into meat before refrigeration or packed in barrels with salt. Even today you can purchase salt cured hams. Farmers have also long understood the ability of salt to prevent weeds and grasses from growing.
The salt-like saints of the world have had a preserving and preventing influence. Ten righteous men in Sodom would have prevented the cities destruction ( Gen. 19:23-33). Godly men and women can help preserve the moral values of their generation and prevent the corruption in the next generation. Salt can have an antiseptic effect on infections. It can stop it from spreading. Have you even witnessed the presence of one Christian causing men to watch their speech? We all know that there are certain people in whose company it is easy to be good.
Drink hydrochloric acid or ingest sodium hydroxide and these chemicals will likely end your life. Put these two chemicals together and you have sodium chloride or salt. Without salt the body would not survive. It has been used from the beginning of time for fight contagion, purify water, heal injuries, and even remove stains from clothing.
Christians are to have a pure heart (5:8). They have a purifying and healing influences upon this sick and dying world. First, the must “keep unspotted from the world” (Js. 1:27). Then they can expose the unfruitful works of darkness (Eph. 5:11). By living and teaching the truth they can expose the filthy practices and adulterated teachings of the wicked.
Salt Creates Thirst
We are to thirst after righteousness (Mt. 5:6). Eating salty foods is one quick and sure way to create a powerful thirst for water. Christians in this world can be salty enough to create a thirst for righteousness in the hearts of men. They may hunger and thirst for the better life promised in Christ.
Salt Gives Flavor
Nothing brings out the natural favor in food like salt. Salt has the power to take a bland dish and make it palatable. The word “savor” suggests “a sweet smell, a pleasant taste.” The early church made things better. At first they grew in favor with their fellow-man (Acts 2:47). You ever meet someone who left a bad taste in your mouth. This may be due to the fact they are salt which has lost its savor. Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.” But Christianity is to life what salt is to food.
Salt Is Penetrating
Sprinkle a little salt on your grits and it finds a way of permeating the entire bowl. Rub salt on meat and it will work its way right down to the bone. Despite persecution early Christian went everywhere preaching the word (Acts 8:1-4). They influenced the whole world (Col. 1:23).
Salt Is Conspicuous
The absence of salt in one’s vegetables is readily noticed. One bit and it is time to pass the salt. The world should be able to spot a Christian without them wear a sign: “I’m a Christian”. By the way we walk and talk they should be able to tell. This does not mean the world will like our presence or influence. It is like the time we were making home-made ice cream and some of the cold salt water seeped into the ice cream. One bite and you tasted the salt, but you did not like it. Salt in an open wound is instantly felt. The pain is undesirable. But the power of the salt to help heal is a blessing.
If, however, you can live this world as a Christian inconspicuously than you may be worthless salt that has lost is savor.
Salt Can Lose its Positive Properties
A branch may become fruitless. A little lamb may stray. And a son may depart to live a worthless life. So a Christian can return to a life of sin. Paul warned, “you have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal. 5:4).
Christians who are not in the world but have sequestered themselves away from the evils of society cannot have a lasting or effective influence for good on the world. When the salt is left in the shaker, the soup will never improve in taste. It is not good enough to be a Christian in this world, if the world is never influenced by your Christ-like qualities. A cartoon in a church bulletin once asked, “if you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?”
Not only is there a problem when Christians have an under identification with the world, some have an over identification with the world. In both situations the world will not be able to identify them as disciples of Christ and they will not be influenced by them. Our speech must be seasoned with salt (Col. 4:6). Yet too many so-called saints speak the “salty language” of the world. Christ’s needs you in the world to influence it but not be of the world and encourage it to remain corrupt (Jn. 17:14,15).
Consequences of Useless Salt
Pure salt does not lose its savor. Instead salt becomes contaminated. Those saints who become conformed to this world will have the qualities of the beatitudes leached out of them. He will have just enough salt that he is useless to the Lord and ineffective in the world.
No one wants to live in a world without love and no right thinking person wants to live in a world without salt. The earth has a great deal of salt. Spiritually, those who are salt can diminish to the point that this world becomes more and more corrupt. Just as a salt-free diet is no fun, nor is a salt-free world
Contaminated salt is useless. It cannot be applied to food. Commentator Matthew Henry said, “salt is a remedy for unsavory meat, but there is no remedy for unsavory salt” (Matthew Henry). The only positive use for such salt is to be thrown down on paths to be trampled on. At least there the salt can keep the weeds from growing over the pathway.
A brief glance at history and it will tell the story of how a small band of men and women, possessing the character traits of the Beatitudes, changed the world from within. Slavery and infanticide was abolished. The worship of pagan gods greatly declined. Their temples fell into ruin. The Roman Empire not only stop persecuting Christians, it started encouraging men and women to become “the salt of the earth.”