I’m a breakfast person! I enjoy a wide variety of food in the morning. One of my favorite meals to begin the day includes a couple of scrambled eggs with caramelized onions and a piece of toast or a bagel, and to embellish the taste even more, I add a touch of salt. Ah! Now that’s living!
In our modern world, we use salt and don’t think much about it, despite the fact that it’s essential for life. Today, salt is almost universally accessible and relatively cheap. Yet, in the ancient world, salt was a valuable commodity.
Salt’s ability to preserve food was a major contributor to civilization. Salt is a water absorbent and hence removes water from any food, making the environment too dry to support harmful mold or bacteria. It helped to eliminate dependence on seasonal availability of food, and made it possible to ship some foods over long distances. However, salt was difficult to obtain, so it was a highly valued trade item, and was considered a form of currency by certain peoples.
Jesus lived in an agrarian society in which the majority of people would have had experiences living on farms or working with food crops and livestock. In their relatively hot climate, without refrigeration, salt was the practical means for preserving food. And so He often used agrarian terms in His teaching. His use of words and phrases germane to their everyday life, including His use of salt in Matthew 5:13, would have resonated with the people:
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” – Matthew 5:13
When the Lord used this expression, He distinguished between salt that preserves and enhances flavor, and salt that is ‘good for nothing.’
He was telling those who would follow Him that they are salt. At the same time He noted they could lose their ‘saltiness,’ their flavor, the characteristic that preserves and enhances the environment in which they reside.
You see, pure salt doesn’t lose it’s flavor or effectiveness, but salt that is compromised is essentially useless.
Common salt found In the Dead Sea area of Israel is contaminated with gypsum and other minerals, which may render it ineffective as a flavor enhancer and preservative. In the first century, such mineral-laced salts were useful for little more than keeping footpaths free of vegetation.
Jesus provided additional teaching on salt in Mark 9:50, connecting it with godly character:
“Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.”
So the idea of being useful or useless salt is a matter of our character or lack thereof. Just as it had application for its original audience, it does so for you and me today.
In our present world, which seemingly is free-falling into a moral abyss of significant proportion, we are called to be the unique and distinct people of God. Simply, be salt – effective, valuable salt.
“Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” – 1 Peter 2:11-12
The phrase ‘among the Gentiles’ is a reference to unbelievers. In that light, we note the evangelistic thrust in these verses.
Note that Peter’s exhortation is a hope that those same unbelievers who at one time slandered God’s people would come to glorify God. How? Through the testimony of godly living.
As Paul adds in Colossians 4:5-6, our witness also includes our words:
“Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.”
The application of our speech being ‘seasoned with salt’ for you and me is manifold. You see, in everyday conversation, what we say and how we say it is important. For we need to speak in love with words of truth…even when we take contrary positions than those held by our audience. And the Bible is clear about the power of our words, for we are called also to let “no corrupt communication proceed from our mouths” (Ephesians 4:29).
In short, speak life!
Also, we’re called to “always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15).
The bottom line is people are always watching and listening to us. What are they seeing and hearing?
Is there a difference? Is our testimony unique and distinct? Do we reflect Christ in our testimony both in word and deed? We are salt, that much we know. But what kind of salt – useful or useless? Undoubtedly, we’re all somewhere between pure salt and useless salt. None of us has arrived, and we all have room to grow.
May we seek the Lord, asking Him, through His grace and the power of His Spirit, to make us more pure salt, for the sake of our witness and His Name!
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me, and know my anxieties; And see if there is any wicked way in me, And lead me in the way everlasting.” – Psalm 139:23-24