Some Reflections on Being the Salt of the Earth

Posted by colin on November 16, 2012 under From the pastor | Comments are off for this article

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 by men” (Matthew 5:13)

A.  Salt has two main purposes: it is used as a preservative (to preserve meat and fish) and as a seasoning (to improve flavour). The role of the Christian is the same:

  1. to act as a preservative in society: This we do when we refuse to take part in any underhanded or dishonest schemes, when we refuse to join in listening to offensive jokes, when we refuse to use inappropriate language. We act as a deterrent to the corruption in our society. People no longer swear in our presence because they have noticed we never swear. The presence of ten righteous people in Sodom would have preserved it from destruction (Gen. 18:33).
  2. to act as a seasoning: when we are willing to wait patiently in line, treat the cashier kindly, are polite in traffic, speak kindly and gently to someone who is being angry and unreasonable, greet our neighbour with a smile, perform an act of kindness, we are making the world a more pleasant place to live in.

B.  The efficacy of salt is not dependent on its being used in great quantities. Each grain of salt contributes to making a difference. This verse is speaking to us as individual Christians, not as a corporate body, the church.

C.  “You are the salt of the earth” – This is not something that we have to become. People know that we are Christians. The question is: what is their experience of Christianity through us? They either see that there is a difference in our lives or they do not.

D.  Salt expends itself in improving the flavour of food, or in preserving food from deterioration.

E.  “But if the salt loses its saltiness” – Salt is a very stable chemical compound. It does not “just” lose its saltiness, even if it has not been used for a long time. The only way that salt can lose its saltiness is if it becomes contaminated with other substances which interact with it. In the same way, Christians only lose their “saltiness” when they become contaminated by the society around them. If people fail to see anything different about us, we have lost our saltiness. We are no longer making a difference.

John Stott comments on this verse: “Christian saltiness is Christian character as depicted in the beatitudes, committed Christian discipleship exemplified in both deed and word. For effectiveness the Christian must retain his Christlikeness, as salt must retain its saltiness. If Christians become assimilated to non-Christians and contaminated by the impurities of the world, they lose their influence.” (John Stott, The Sermon on the Mount, pg 60).

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