Being Salt

Matthew 5:13 (NKJV)

13 “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.

This weekend, I had the blessing of helping out with an event dubbed the DiscipleNow Weekend.  The speaker, Brian Burgess, gave two tremendous messages.  I learned something new, and have done some additional study to understand the principles Brian laid out.  This blog is the result of this study.

What is salt?  Sodium chloride, also known as salt, has the chemical formula NaCl.  Sodium chloride is the primary salt found in the oceans; it is commonly used as a condiment and food preservative.

Salt is necessary for most animals to survive.  In ancient times, and to a certain extent today, salt was a highly sought after commodity, and common bartering item; it was sometimes even used as currency.  Humans must take in a certain amount of salt, or else they will die.

In his commentary on Matthew 5:13, Albert Barnes says,

Salt renders food pleasant and palatable, and preserves from putrefaction. So Christians, by their lives and instructions, are to keep the world from entire moral corruption. By bringing down the blessing of God in answer to their prayers, and by their influence and example, they save the world from universal vice and crime.

Matthew 5 is part of a sermon by Jesus Christ known as the Sermon on the Mount.  What Jesus is saying by calling His followers the “salt of the earth” is that we are a very necessary part of God’s plan for planet Earth.  Salt is absolutely necessary for life; it is also a preservative.  The Holy Spirit resides in the Christian, and uses them to preserve His influence on the planet.  True, God could accomplish this goal through other means; but He instead chose to work through His people to achieve His goals.  Isn’t it exciting to be a Christian!  God uses us to complete His purposes!  When I have doubts as to why God placed me on this earth, I simply need to remember this principle:  God put me here so He can use me to glorify Himself.  It’s not about me; it’s all about Jesus Christ.

The phrase, “but if the salt loses its flavor,” has been problematic for some.  Salt, or sodium chloride, cannot lose its flavor.  The chemical properties of sodium chloride, including its “salty” taste, never change.  So, what did Jesus mean by this?

In the ancient area around Israel, and even today, much of the salt supply came from the Dead Sea.  Dead Sea salt, however, is not pure; it contains other chemicals, including gypsum.  Gypsum is a powdery chemical that somewhat resembles salt in its powdered form.  It was often mixed in with Dead Sea salt, which reduced the “saltiness” of the product.  Gypsum was a sort of counterfeit salt; its outward appearance looked like salt, but it had none of the flavor or life-sustaining properties of salt.

The Greek word μωρανθῇ (mōranthē), translated here as “loses its flavor,” literally means to be foolish.  The English word “moron” comes from the same Greek root word.  Jesus was well aware of the fact that salt cannot become unsalty.  Jesus is using a subtle play on words here.  Just as salt cannot lose its flavor, a true Christian cannot lose their importance in God’s plan.  For salt to lose its saltiness, it must be counterfeit salt; if a Christian were to lose the life-sustaining influence of the Holy Spirit working through their lives, they must be counterfeit Christians.  Sometimes, true Christians doubt their value and importance in God’s plan; but, such thinking is foolishness.  Subtly, Jesus is saying that a Christian would have to be a moron to not believe he or she is an integral part of God’s plan for His creation!  This doesn’t mean that Jesus is being unkind or name-calling; it does mean that He is pointing out that when we doubt our value and worth in the Holy Spirit accomplishing God’s purposes through us, we are being foolish.

God’s plan for His people on earth is to use them to reach others with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  If you have already become a Christian, then you are an integral part of His plan.  However, if you are one of those people who goes to church, reads their Bible, prays, and does other “religious” stuff, but have never actually placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ, you are like gypsum – you are a counterfeit Christian.  Jesus said that people like this are “good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”  Going to church and doing religious stuff doesn’t make you a Christian, any more than going into a garage and making car noises makes you a car.  Being a Christian has nothing to do with anything we do, how we act, or what we say; it is all about what Jesus Christ did on our behalf on the cross, and whether we have accepted His gift and applied it to our lives.

The true Christian is like salt.  A Christian’s value and worth are due to the very nature of our relationship with God through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Just as salt cannot make itself salty, nor lose its saltiness, a Christian cannot gain value and worth on his or her own, nor lose it.  Our value and worth come from God’s work in us.  The false Christian is like gypsum.  He or she does not have the “saltiness” that can only come through a relationship with Jesus Christ, and will not be a part of God’s plan for eternity.  The question is, are you a true Christian?  Have you placed your faith and trust in Jesus Christ?  Do you have a relationship with Him?  Or, are you foolishly being a moron, and trying to reach Heaven on your own terms?

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One Response

  1. Excellent message for me today! I tend to confuse myself regarding how to answer Christ call on my life. What is funny is that I know that I can’t do His work on my own but I keep trying to figure out the next move on my own and end up frustrated! Thanks for providing some clarity for me. I” m on the path and just need to keep moving towards Him; and He will find me and guide me when He’s ready to use me. Amen !?

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