“My, aren’t we being a bit salty!” my daughter exclaimed to me not long ago when I popped off at a situation that shall remain unknown to you, dear reader. Suffice to say, it was an annoying thing and it happened to get on my last un-frayed nerve of the day.
(Yes, I know it’s a surprise that I sometimes get testy. I’m the proverbial work in progress. Ask Jesus.)
For the uninitiated, “being salty” in today’s lingo refers to when you are upset over something little. You know, like when a supposed news person spreads an untruth about a President over a trivial matter that is designed to smear him in a bad light. Oops! Cat’s out of the bag…oh well.
Back to being “salty.” A certain dictionary reveals the term comes from “the United States Navy, used to describe disgruntled senior enlisted members. Also used to describe someone who has sea experience from a prior deployment, for whom the romanticized idea of ship life is gone and replaced with sea salt.”
Can you identify with this? The truth is, we all can.
This may come as a surprise to some of you, but God wants us to be salty but in an entirely different way. Jesus taught, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men” (Matthew 5:13).
According to Jesus, His disciples are the salt of the earth. Not might be or should be or can be. We are. So what does that mean for you and me? Let’s explore that!
What is salt? According to science, salt is a colorless or white crystalline solid, chiefly sodium chloride. There is enough salt in the oceans of the world that we could use it all to sculpt a full-scale topographic map of Europe… five times over! There is so much salt on earth, we will NEVER run out. Salt is nearly everywhere. In fact, since a human being is mostly water, we have a virtual “salt-sea” within us. Our blood has the same chemical balance of sodium, potassium, and calcium found in the oceans. Because of this, the average human being absolutely needs salt to live.
Salt has amazing properties and powerful effects! Salt is a seasoning with a unique and easily identifiable flavor.
Salt is a remarkable purifier and preservative. It can preserve meat so that your future dinner can be kept without a fridge. Salt was used to “kill” land so that enemies couldn’t camp on your border or return to their land. Salt was often rubbed on a newborn baby to clean its skin after birth, which would also kill bacteria and prevent infection.
Salt is essential for life. Our bodies need salt to perform a variety of vital functions. Salt is used to transmit information in our nerves and muscles and helps our blood cells retain fluid. It’s also used to take in certain nutrients during digestion. And here’s a little-known fact, Normie (as Cliff Clavin of Cheers fame would say), the body cannot make salt, so we rely on an outside source to make sure that we get the required amount.
And finally, salt creates thirst in human beings. That’s why it’s wise not to drink seawater. The more salt you ingest, the thirstier you’ll get!
I love the way Rabbi Jesus used pictures and objects to teach spiritual truth, don’t you? It makes His lessons so vivid and memorable. Okay, so how does salt relate to us, His disciples? What truths is He revealing?
Jesus used salt as an object lesson about how His disciples should have “amazing properties and powerful effects” on the world around us. The special salt we need is something we can’t make ourselves. It has to come from an outside source. And that source is… (wait for it)… God Himself!
What makes us salty is Jesus’ presence living in and through us and as we live His teachings. Obviously, Jesus in us is something we can’t create. That’s something only He can do when we’re spiritually re-born. We’re changed inside and that change develops amazing properties in us (the fruits of the Spirit, Jesus’ character traits, Galatians 5:22-23) which begin to affect the world around us as we “shake out the salt” or live Jesus’ way.
Pretty cool, huh?
But that will only happen IF we let ourselves be salty His way, not the world’s way. You know, in that obnoxious annoyed sense we can all be so good at.
Jesus’ disciples are God’s seasoning. As salt makes food more enjoyable, so people who live right (God’s way) make life more enjoyable. Case in point? Wouldn’t you rather live around someone who is selfless rather than selfish? Or loving rather than loathsome? I rest my case.
Jesus’ disciples are to be purifying and preserving agents. As salt is applied to stop harmful bacteria from taking hold and spreading, so we are to exert godly influence on our society to prevent evil from taking hold and spreading. The well-known quote captures this beautifully. “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.” In other words, if Jesus’ disciples refuse to exert a godly influence within any society, sin and evil will find opportunities, take hold, progress, and ultimately produce a rotting death.
How do we deploy a godly influence? By calling out and acting against evil, moral wrongs, injustice, immorality, and the rest of the things God says are sin. Of course, we’d better be working on those things in ourselves first. Hypocrisy, you know.
This is not a one-time sprinkle of the salt-shaker either. It’s an always and forever thing because sin and evil never sleep.
As salt is essential for life, so we need the effect and influence of Jesus’ presence and word to be kept spiritually alive. Again, His presence and word are not things we can make. They must (and do) come in from an outside source, God, through His Holy Spirit.
Society as a body of human beings also needs God’s influence to stay alive and thrive. For proof simply review the history of nations, kingdoms, and empires that turn their backs on God. They ultimately decay into total collapse and self-destruction. An excellent book about this is When Nations Die by Jim Nelson Black.
Since our fallen world cannot manufacture God’s presence and certainly won’t follow His directions, Jesus sends His disciples as salt into the world to bring life and health. Imagine what the world be like if all godly influences were removed overnight? Now that’s a truly horrifying thought!
Finally, as salt creates thirst in people, so Jesus’ disciples should display a life that’s appealing to others for its goodness, vibrancy, positivity, and hope. Our lives should produce a thirst for the things of God, especially to a wicked, dead, negative, and hopeless world. Faith in Jesus is indeed better caught than taught. People around us need to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8) and that life with Him is so much better than life without Him.
And as any buffet patron knows, when people like what they taste, they come back for more!
Okay, here’s the really fascinating question. What if salt loses its flavor?
That’s a trick question. Salt can’t lose its flavor. Either it has its unique, characteristic flavor or it doesn’t. So how can salt “lose” its saltiness?
First, by adding something to it. Ancient Israel got their salt from evaporated saltwater such as from the Dead Sea or salt mines. Salt from the Dead Sea could “lose” its flavor if it picked up the alkaline taste of other minerals. Added elements can mask the taste. Some additives can even cause a chemical reaction that would break down the sodium-chloride bond and completely neutralize it.
Second, salt can lose its flavor if we take something away. In this case, the salt itself. In Jesus’s day, salt was rarely found in a pure state and often had impurities in it. If the salt was leached out through moisture, the mix would lose its salty flavor. So rather than the impurities increasing as before, the salt is decreasing.
In both cases, by adding or subtracting, the taste loses strength. The effect of the salt grows weak. And what was meant to help, becomes useless and worthless. You might as well dump it in the street with the rest of the trash!
We lose our saltiness if additives from the world mask our savor or diminish our influence. Cultivating a self-focused and self-pleasing lifestyle is one way. Indulging in sin is another. Let’s face it, there is a truckload of additives from the world that can cover over Jesus and His word in our lives.
Or we can ignore Jesus and His word and effectively dilute our “seasoning, purification, and preservation” effect on those around us.
If we lose our distinctiveness from the world, either by taking on the impurities of this life or by suppressing Jesus’ presence in our lives, we will be rendered ineffective and worthless to the Kingdom, fit only to be tossed out the door as garbage.
How can we become saltier? Reverse the above. Leach out the world’s ways and increase Jesus.
So, what is Jesus' point in this verse?
We are to be Jesus in the world. We are God’s salt to be shaken out all over the world. We are to act as a seasoning, a purifier and preservative, bringing what’s essential to life, and creating a spiritual thirst in people by our love and dedication to God!
Jesus is saying we have a vital function as disciples and if we fail to act, we’re bland and weak. We might as well not exist for all the good we do!
To Jesus, a “bland Christian” is an oxymoron just like the term “lukewarm disciple.” Both make Him want to throw up (Revelation 3:16)! Rather, we should BE the verse, “Taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8).
When we live as Jesus wants us to live, then we’ll make life more enjoyable for all, purify and preserve our society, and create a thirst for God.
So, have you been salty with someone today?