Ye are the Salt of the Earth – Matthew 5:13

audio version

Our scripture is just one point in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount. And one of the critical things to remember when studying and interpreting this Sermon is – the audience. It was preached to Christ’s disciples; God’s saints; Jesus’ spiritual brethren; His servants; His sheep. When this message is re-preached to the lost by lazy or liberal theologians heresy is almost guaranteed.

Jesus’ message began with a description of the character of those Christian disciples. They began their Christian lives as “poor in spirit,” “meek,” “hungering” and “thirsting for righteousness.” And the Lord then promised to “bless” them. Then after He had established the character of the children of God, He moved on into pictures of their proper relationship to the world.

Having a Christian nature – being different from the rest of humanity and the world – we must not conform to the world, but be transformed in order to inform sinners of Christ. But, the idea that WE can actually do some good in this sin-sick world might make us question our sanity. What lasting good can these meager, meek and mournful people do? I am just a single pebble tossed into the Columbia river of life. I am merely a maple leaf floating on an ocean of sin. Won’t we be simply overwhelmed by the floods of evil? Yes, I know that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal,” but still, how can WE compete? Christ Jesus didn’t share our scepticism, despite the persecution that He just mentioned in verse 11. We can and must serve this creation as ambassadors for Christ – that is our commission and obligation. Our retaliation for the world’s persecution is love, truth and good deeds.

Think of the scope of the original context. The Lord Jesus was speaking to a small band of peasant fishermen. And yet He spoke of their influence over “the earth” – the whole globe? And hasn’t the salty savor of these few men lasted even unto this day? Of course the power that carried their influence was Heaven sent, but it was through those men. To emphasize their responsibility – our responsibility – Jesus used two illustrations that everyone recognized.

Let’s focus our thoughts on the subject of salt. Salt is used for seasoning and preserving. Sometimes it seems almost essential. Many of us like salt, and some of us would love to be able to use it more often. I read of one little boy who said, “Salt is what tastes bad when you don’t have it.” Salt is used for seasoning and preserving, but a number of things after that. I think that Jesus may have liked salt. I can’t prove it without a doubt, but I think so.

The first thing that we need to see is that SALT is ESSENTIAL to life.

Every kind of warm blooded creature needs to have a little salt in its diet. Cats and dogs need a little bit salt every day, so do horses, cows, elephants and giraffes. And its obvious that pigs need lots of salt for making those wonderful hams and bacon. Poachers sometimes use blocks of salt to attract deer and elk, because those animals want and need it.

I remember a story about a frontier family living in woods two hundred years ago. Dad went out to chop some wood for the fire, and when he picked up ax the handle was whittled down. No one could figure out what made a perfectly good ax handle crumble. Pretty soon they noticed that some of the other tools in the shed were falling apart as well. For weeks, everyone was trying to figure out what was happening. Then one night they saw it; a porcupine was nibbling on all wooden handles of their tools. That porcupine needed and wanted the salt from the sweat on the man’s hands. Like the porcupine if you don’t get some salt every now and then you will get sick. Most of the time it’s already in your food, but then some of us add lots more.

Salt is also used for other purposes: Centuries ago people learned that they can keep foods from spoiling by mixing it with salt. I’m sure that Jesus’ fishermen-disciples probably used salt to preserve some of their fish.

And then salt is sometime used to help things to heal. Have you ever gotten a scratch or a cut and then gotten sweat in it? Usually it stings like fire, but while it hurts it is also killing some potential germs. If you ever get a cut in your mouth, it is helpful to mix some salt in water and swish it around. It used to be that nurses would wash new born babies in salt water.

And this reminds us that people can use salt for cleaning things, when they can’t use soap. I remember my Dad on camping trips – we’d go down to the creek with our dirty dishes. First we’d pick up some of the sand along the bank and rub it on the plate or skillet to loosen up the food. Then we’d take out the salt shaker, and we’d rub salt on the dishes to sterilize them. That salt was far more beneficial to the environment than a few squirts of dish soap.

And then, of course, whether it is healthy or not, salt sure makes a hamburger taste better. And french fries would be almost inedible if weren’t for salt. In lots of cases, salt makes things taste better, and sometimes it seems to actually create the flavor. In the Bible, Job asked a good question: “Can that which is unsavory (unflavorful) be eaten without salt?” If you are going to make me eat that egg white, at least give me some salt and perhaps a little pepper.

My encyclopedia tells me that there are over a thousand ways to use salt. Not the least of which, in times past, people used salt instead of money. As strange as it sounds, in some societies where coins were scarce, bags of salt made a good medium of exchange. In fact, the word “salary” comes from the Latin word for “salt.”

There is a very real need in this world for salt.

And the Lord Jesus said to you and to me, “YE are the salt of the earth.”

As a Christian, your life is important to this world and everyone around you. You may look at yourself and laugh at the idea. And I’m not sure that a single grain of salt doesn’t laugh itself as well. Did the disciples chuckle when they heard the Lord Jesus make this statement? You may think that you are too dumb, too weak, too ugly, or too beautiful to be of much use to the Lord. But when I say that “ye are the salt of the earth” it is not me who is saying it – it is the Lord Jesus. Just about everything that salt is to world, you as a Christian are to the world as well – flavor, health, cleansing, value and preservation. Can’t you just feel that weight upon your shoulders?

Salt is not the only way to keep food from rotting, and its not the best kind money. There are better ways to wash you hair or your dishes than using salt. And a hamburger is still a hamburger with or without more salt. But there is no substitute for it in our bodies. The first web-site that I consulted in preparing for this message listed twenty-two reasons to ingest salt, and some of them go against common opinion. Salt is effective in stabilizing irregular heartbeats and, contrary to the misconception that it causes high blood pressure, some is actually essential for the regulation of blood pressure. Salt is vital to the extraction of excess acidity from the cells in the body, particularly the brain cells. Salt is vital for balancing the sugar levels in the blood; a needed element in diabetics. Salt is used for local power generation at the sites of energy need by the cells. Salt is vital to the nerve cells’ communication and information processing. Salt is a strong natural antihistamine. Salt is essential for the prevention of muscle cramps. Salt is vital to prevent excess saliva production to the point that it flows out of the mouth during sleep. Needing to constantly mop up excess saliva indicates salt shortage. Salt is absolutely vital to making the structure of bones firm. Osteoporosis, to some degree, is a result of salt and water shortage in the body. Salt is vital for the prevention of gout and some forms of arthritis. This is just some of claims that web-site made. Even if they are not all accurate, it is safe to say that without salt we would all quickly get sick and die.

And Christ Jesus said that “ye are the salt of the earth.” There are things that only the saints of God can do in this world. With the Holy Spirit in our hearts and the gospel in our mouths, we are the health of the world. I believe that Thessalonians teaches that God’s saints, as temples of the Holy Spirit are the reason that the wrath of God is not poured out upon this world.

Every Christian here is a little grain of salt with a commission from God to go into all the world and to spread the savor of the Saviour. You are the salt of the earth created by God to preserve life and kill poison of sin. You are the salt of the earth which makes this place taste just a little bit better. Ye are the salt of the earth.

But obviously, when the Lord tells us that we are the salt of the earth, there is something a little scary. When salt is used it changes its form. It gets mixed into things; sometimes it is spent and even appears to be gone. When we realize and relish the thought that the Lord says that we are salt, it sometimes means big changes in our lives. It might mean forcing ourselves to be more outgoing for the Lord. It might mean contending for the faith. It might mean rebuking those who speak badly about our Saviour. Stephen was acting as salt when he was debating with Saul and the other Jews, and look what happened to him. The Lord needs salt that is willing to pastor churches and to preach the Word. The Lord wants salt that would be willing to learn a new language and be a missionary. The Lord has need of all kinds of salts, in all kinds of situations. And in the process of being salt, we just might loose whatever it was that we were before.

On the other hand, if the Christian is not being salty, then he’s not of very much use to the Lord.

I have brought with me, tonight, a little vial of white stuff. What is in this little container? It could be salt; it could be sugar; it could be fiber powder; it could be baking soda; baking powder. What is in this vial? I suppose that a chemist could take a sample and run a few tests. In a few minutes he could eliminate some of my suggestions, but some might take longer. Or you could put your finger into it and then touch it to your tongue. If it was sugar or salt, you could know immediately. The thing which makes salt salt is its saltiness. When salt has no saltiness, it isn’t much better than fiber powder.

And that I’m afraid is true about a great many Christians who ought to be Jesus’ disciples. In some cases they have spent so little time with the Lord that they are poor reflections of Christ. Or they have let some contaminant come into their lives which robs them of their saltiness. Perhaps it is lying, maybe its stealing, maybe that Christian has become a bully. Some Christians are in so much love with their own beauty that they become saltless. They love the world’s entertainment, and they become saltless. They look like the world, and they dress like a piece of hamburger. They can no longer spice anything up except in a poisonous sort of way.

The fact is many Christians are so unsalty that they need to be salted. And at that point they become useless to the Lord. At that point they are fit only to be thrown away. “If the salt have lost his savour (or flavor), wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing, but to be cast out and trodden under foot of men.” Unsalty salt is good only for building roads to nowhere.

I believe that no true Christian will ever again cease to be a child of God. But I’ve seen many Christians loose their ability to serve and glorify the Lord. It is a fearful thing to be put on the shelf or cast onto the ground. If the Lord has ordained that we be salt, why would we want to be anything else?

Christ’s people are brethren, servants, children, saints, disciples, salt and light. How salty are you this evening?