The Salt of the Earth
Matthew 5:13 Princeton Christian Church 28 November 2021
As you prepared your Thanksgiving meal a few days ago, I would guess that everyone who prepared a meal used one common ingredient which was necessary in the preparation of that food. And, of course, that ingredient is salt. Common salt. It is necessary because it supplies flavor and seasoning. Without salt, some food would be bland, without taste. That same food with too much salt would make it unpleasant to the taste.
We sometimes refer to a person as being “the salt of the earth.” We will see here that Jesus is the originator of that saying. It is a compliment that says solid worth and usefulness.
Salt, which is worthy of its salt, supplies three benefits: Purity, Preservation, and Flavor.
First, Purity – it comes from the sun and the sea, its whiteness. Salt is an active agent combating the lowering of standards of honesty, diligence in work, conscientiousness, and moral standards. Christians must hold high the standard of purity in speech, conduct, and thought. Colossians 4:6 tells us we must “guard our speech and habits. Christians cannot withdraw from the world, but must “keep ourselves unspotted from the world” as James teaches in his letter (1:27).
Second, look at the Preserving power of salt. It does preserve; it keeps food fresh; it shuts out corruption. Christians must have a certain antiseptic influence in our world as the salt of the earth. It is easy to be Christian in the company of other Christians. But sadly, it is often too easy to relax our standards in the company of those who are not Christians. If that happens, we are no longer an antiseptic to the dying world, but we have become a contributor to the disease. Salt can be a preservative, but it cannot cure corruption once it has been fed.
So, the Christian acts as a preservative against the corruption in the world. His influence must be felt wherever he goes.
The third function of salt is Flavor. Food without salt is tasteless, even sickening in some foods. Christianity is to life what salt is to food – it supplies flavor to life. Very often people out in the world connect Christianity with the opposite. They believe that following Christ will take all the flavor out of their lives. A former Justice of the Supreme Court, Oliver Wendell Holmes, gave life to that statement when he said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain clergymen I know had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”
In a worried and depressed world, we live in, if you believe everything you hear on the news, it is somewhat easy for even the Christian to question his role in this world.
Jesus taught on the subject of salt and its importance in the Christian life. In Matthew 5:13 He says this, “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.” If our salt has become flat or tasteless, it is no longer any good for anything. But God’s Word teaches us that we must remain peaceful and full of the joy of life in Christ. We cannot become prophets of doom and destruction, but we must be ones who scatters joy and promise seasoned with salt.
Christians are to be purifiers by holy example, zealous efforts, and fervent prayers.
In Mark 9:50, He says, “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness how can you make it salty again. Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with each other.”
What Jesus is referring to here is the Christian life which begins with gaining new life in Christ, but as life progresses that excitement of new life may begin to wither and fade away if we are not careful to be on our guard and refuse to allow the world to shake us from our devotion to the Lord to return to our former life outside of Christ.
So, Jesus is pleading with us to rediscover the radiance of the Christian faith which we may have lost along the way.
We all know that when we receive something new, after constant use it becomes worn out, and is not so important to us as in the beginning. Very often that thing is eventually tossed out because we have decided it is no longer useful to us.
What does all that have to do with salt? Well, Jesus said we are the salt of the earth. So, let’s take a closer look at salt.
First, when we use salt, it is shaken onto the food we want to have salted. We don’t pour salt on the food. It must be spread out and we must be careful not to use too much because too much ruins the food. In the same way, Christians must be shaken, or spread out where each of us lives. We will be much more effective in our evangelism if we sprinkle the salt where we live.
Second, as we have seen earlier, salt adds flavor. Salt, if tasted by itself is not flavorful. But when added to food it is flavorful and zesty, but the salt itself is obscure. It becomes a part of the food. So, we don’t say, “This is good salt.” We do say, “This is really good.” And that is because the salt is a part of the food. In the same way, we, as Christ’s followers and examples to the world are expected to add zest to life. In that way, we are the salt of the earth.
If we are not careful, even in our Christian life, we may lose interest in our role as a Christian. The author, Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote: “I have been to church today, and I am not depressed.” He possibly had had a loss of appetite for church. These things happen because of a lack of radiance or a lack of seasoning in the Christian life.
Salt is not like any other seasoning. The difference is in the strength. It cannot be duplicated, and it must be applied before it is useful. Salt, as it sits on the table, in the shaker is no good at all. Several years ago, Rebecca Pippert wrote a book titled, “Out of the Salt Shaker and into the World.” That thought teaches us that we, as Christians, must be pouring ourselves into a lost world, shaking the salt, pouring it out, to bring them to Christ, rather than leaving it sitting on the table.
As salt, we as Christians are to be a moral disinfectant in the world. Our presence, our shaking Christ into the lives of the lost can stop corruption. We are to be a healing agent. One of the most obvious results of tasting salt is that it makes us thirsty. That is what we are to do as Christians – make those who are lost and dying without Christ thirsty. Create a thirst in them for the quenching of the thirst that we already have. And then, just as salt adds flavor to food, we are to spread the salt to add the saving flavor of Jesus Christ to their lives.
As we go about being the salt of the earth, we must be careful. Luke says in his Gospel writing – Luke 14:34 – “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” So, we must be sure that our salt is fresh and alive, so that it causes the lost to want what we have in Christ.
We must do the work of preservation, or we lose our influence and become as insignificant as the dust in the field.
Paul says in Colossians 4:6 – “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Using Paul’s advice here will result in healing and pure words. Words that will create a thirst and a desire for Jesus Christ to be in the lives of those who are without Him.