What it means to be salt of the earth

Salt reminds us that we can season other people’s lives with a small sprinkling, as Dave Newton explains.

I have never been known for the greatest quality of cooking. In fact, I am rarely let loose in the kitchen, especially if we are entertaining guests. That is not to say that I am constrained to frozen meals if I am on my own for a week, but I am not sure any of my dishes are going to make it on ‘MasterChef’ in the near future.

One tip I have developed over time though in this area is that too little salt can leave a meal bland and tasteless, but too much can ruin a great meal leaving it inedible.

Salt is indeed a fascinating and essential mineral. It has been reported that Roman soldiers were sometimes paid in salt, although you might have trouble spending it in restaurants today. One thing that is certainly true though is that every cell in the body contains salt. We cannot operate as human beings without it. Unknown to many is that salt even plays a key role in helping to take water out of fuel to enable planes to get up in the air.

But what was Jesus talking about in Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes when he addressed his listeners as the ‘salt of the earth’ (Matt 5:13), and even more cryptically when he talked about ‘salt losing its saltiness’?

Jesus wasn’t concerning himself with the nuances of fine cuisine or embarking on a career in chemistry by making reference to the quality of the salt. Instead, he was simply asking if his listeners were living their lives in a way that would bring about change.

Were they committed to making a kingdom difference and looking for ways to have a positive impact on others? One thing you can guarantee with salt is that you cannot deny its presence. It has a distinct flavour and changes what it comes into contact with. 

Too small a contribution 

One of the habits we can fall into as followers of Jesus is thinking that it is only the significant contributions that really make a difference. We have seen the pictures of enormous mountains of salt used for gritting the roads or the mega ministries of others we read about or watch on TV and think our salt-shaker contribution is not likely to bring much change.

When confronted with a challenge we wish our favourite celebrity preacher was there with the right sound bite or at least our pastor to offer a word of wisdom. We can be so quick to play down the small contribution we can make ourselves and so slow to realise that our small contribution can alter the reality of a situation, start the process of change and offer an alternative at just the right time. We must never underestimate the impact a pinch of salt can have when it’s introduced at the right time. 

Salt that’s not salty 

This sounds like an oxymoron; how can you call something salt if it’s not salty? Without attempting to enter into a chemistry lesson here, Jesus was pointing out that there is clearly something wrong with the salt if it loses its saltiness.

Too often as followers of Jesus, we like to offer the nice things Christianity offers – love, hope, peace and the like. However, we are not always as keen to reveal to those we encounter, the motivation or source of that

love to be Jesus Christ himself. We can be in danger of offering a bland watered-down version of Christianity which references all the benefits without recognising the cost of following Christ.

Remember, adding too much salt will result in no one wanting to come near us to hear what it is we have to offer – but too little will mean what we have to offer will lack the transforming power of Jesus Christ.

Where has God put you where you can be most salty?

How are you affecting the lives of others in simple ways?

Anyone for salt? 

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