Session #034 Salty Salt
Scripture Matthew 5:13
Summary The picture of salt was easily understood by Jesus’ original audience. But what does it mean to us as disciples of Jesus today? From this simple but rich symbol of salt, Henson teaches on Matt 5:13, drawing seven salty implications, whilst addressing faulty impressions, for consideration and application.
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. 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 5:11 – 13
We have just completed the first section of the Beatitudes, written as an introduction to kingdom living that declares the blessedness (makarios) of God’s kingdom subjects in His upside-down Kingdom. To go up Mount Makarios, we have to go down first. Jesus uses the picture of salt here to illustrate a few particular points.
When Jesus declares the last beatitude about persecution, he shifts from speaking generally to directing the beatitude to *you*, which he does here in *you* are the salt of the earth as well, with this usage being extremely directed to the disciples. The disciples might have wanted to band together and withdraw after hearing about the potential persecution, but immediately after, Jesus declares that they need to be used out there – not just who they are in Christ, but what the disciples are to do. He declares His function and purpose for us through salt. It is out of who we are in Christ that we can be how we should be, but today we are often content to leave it at who we are.
What is Jesus saying about salt? What is its significance for us? There are three characteristics of salt to bear in mind.
Salt is Common
Jesus liked to use common items to illustrate His points, things that any layman can understand. In Jesus’ time, salt was primarily used to preserve food and to flavour it. Even in the Old Testament, the offerings were seasoned with salt to be lifted up to the Lord, good tasting and unspoilt. All these would have been known to the Jewish audience.
Salt is a Precious Commodity
Although common, without salt, all the food goes bad and people will starve, making it a precious commodity over which wars have been fought. In fact, salt was given as payment for soldiers, Latin ‘sal’ from which we derive the word salary.
Salt is used in Covenant Language
As a stable compound, it is known as a symbol of fidelity and constancy. In the Old Testament, we read of a covenant of salt in Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5.
With these characteristics, what are the implications? We want salty implications, not faulty impressions. Here are seven points.
Not All Salt is Salty
When Jesus speaks of salt-losing flavour, He is talking about rock salt whose outer layer was exposed to impurities and chemical changes caused by the environment which causes it to lose its flavour. The other possibility is that due to its preciousness, some people mix salt with sand or white powder to make up the weight but also adulterates it. As Christians, as we are exposed to the impurities of worldly influence in the media, its teaching can get mixed in and our doctrine adulterated. We may look and talk like salt, but we aren’t salty salt. Do we talk Christian, but not live for the kingdom?
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?” (Luke 14:33 – 34).
The passage in Luke 14:25 – 35 tells us that in order to be salty, we have to be ready to forsake all we have and be true disciples of Christ. Are we ready to do so?
Unsalty Salt is Good for Nothing
In Genesis, God declares His creation good, each good for a particular purpose and function they are meant to be good for. But when salt ‘loses its flavour’ (Greek: moraino, from the root moros, meaning ‘fool’), it becomes good for nothing. We are called to live wisely, and not as fools living by the world’s standards instead of walking according to the ways of God. God calls us to be foolish for the ways of the world, so that we can be wise for the kingdom. Yet today we often try to live the ways of the world and shift Scripture to justify it, but when we do so, then we are “neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out.” (Luke 14:35)
Beware of Faulty and not Salty Alternatives
Technology has brought us preservatives and chemicals meant to serve the same function as salt, and often resemble salt. They look similar but are hazardous, such as MSG, BHA, nitrates that bring all sorts of health problems when used as an easier and faster substitute. Are we looking for substitutes to bring us flavour in life, when we should instead be the salt in the relationship? If we try to find quick fixes for the problems we face, they will only leave us wanting more in the end. We have tried to substitute salt with sugar, ‘sweetening’ the gospel by avoiding the hard talk about sin and conviction. But we need the salt to preserve, even though it stings on open wounds.
An Optimal Amount of Salt is All That is Needed
It is not about the numbers that we are trying to accumulate, but about effectiveness. Jesus was declaring this sermon to thousands of listeners, but Jesus was not trying to convert everyone. He never lowered the bar for discipleship but knew that He just needs those few true disciples and that would be enough. Jesus takes all we are, and that’s enough to season our lives. We need not be a known brand of salt, for we are almost anonymous, and if we are salt, we will be peacemakers. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one (Colossians 4:6).
Salt Concentrated in One Location is not Desirable
The book of Deuteronomy describes the land of a people who have forsaken God’s covenant as a land of “brimstone, salt and burning; it is not sown, nor does it bear, nor does any grass grow there” (Deuteronomy 29:23). Land with too much salt is a land that will bear no fruit. If we are all good salt but keep staying together in our holy huddle, nothing will grow. It does not mean that we don’t have to go to church, but that a salty disciple will know where he or she needs to be.
Better to Be Salt Shaken Out, Not Thrown Out
We have to be shaken out of our comfort zone, which is better than being thrown out after becoming good for nothing. If we reach the point of holy discontent, wanting to be a disciple of God but feeling that nothing is happening, this is a good place to be, for God is about to shake us out. If we are prepared to pray, “Lord, am I where You want me to be?” Let us be ready for God to shake us out, to the place where He wants us to be. It can be scary to be shaken out, but there is no place we would rather be than being where God has assigned us. If it comes to the point of having to stand against deception, we need to stand firm, for God is going to shake the heavens. Those that stand firm are the ones who will remain.
To Be Worth Our Salt
A soldier paid in salt has to be deserving of what he is paid, to be ‘worth his salt’. For us to be worth our salt, we have to ask ourselves this: how much were my King’s sacrifice and shedding of His blood worth? Jesus died so that we may be brought out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of glorious light, but we often underplay the worth of His sacrifice. If we don’t count His death of great worth, our walk will only be worth that much. Paul repeatedly tells the people of God in the epistles to remind us of the grace and mercy we have received, and therefore to walk worthy of it. As a soldier of the Lord’s army, we can look forward to the reward when we stand before the King, that our service is worth His death.
It will do us well to review these implications and ask ourselves if we are salty salt, for Jesus said *you* are the salt of the earth. Morally, the world is decaying, truth is being challenged and rejected. We may be wondering, “How can one little grain of salt like me impact the earth?” The Greek word translated as ‘earth’ can also be translated as ‘land’, or ‘ground’. We can be a blessing to whichever land, whichever nation we are in, and if even a nation feels too ambitious, we can claim the ground that we stand upon and salt it as ambassadors of Christ. Let us preserve the truth in our areas of influence, and add flavour to our relationships, even when it stings.
A last use of salt in the Bible was to mark territory. In the Bible, rubbing salt on infants sets them apart, claiming them for God. With that picture of salt, we know that as salt, we can go into any land, any ground, and separate it and mark it for the new kingdom. For you – you, and only you – are the salt of the earth.