What Does it Mean to be the Salt of the Earth?


Question: What does it mean to be the salt of the earth?

Answer: The interesting thing about salt is that although it is essential to life and good health, too much of it can be harmful. Blood, sweat and tears are salty. Its importance has lasted for several millennia. Anciently, the mineral provided for the financial basis for art and culture. In Roman times, it was so precious it provided the means to pay soldiers. In the Middle Ages, its nickname was "White Gold." The use of this mineral as currency, called salarium, is where the English word salary originated.

The first mention of this mineral in the Bible is found in the Book of Genesis:

"And it came to pass in the days of Amraphel king of Shinar, Arioch king of Ellasar, Chedorlaomer king of Elam, and Tidal king of nations, that they made war with Bera king of Sodom, Birsha king of Gomorrah, Shinab king of Admah, Shemeber king of Zeboiim, and the king of Bela (that is, Zoar). All these joined together in the Valley of Siddim (that is, the SALT Sea)" (Genesis 14:1-3, NKJV throughout).

Jesus, in his well-known Sermon on the Mount, discusses the phrase we want to define.

"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" (Matthew 5:13).

The definition we need is just a few verses below the above quote.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden . . . Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14,16).

Jesus tells those wishing to follow him that they must make a difference in the world. The difference made is "the flavor" -- the good works we do are to shine like a light on a lampstand and offer a witness for Christ. Up until recently, salt was used as a means to preserve food. By living in accordance with God's Way of Life, Christians also preserve the earth by slowing the decay of morals in the society around them.

Making a difference, however, includes even more than our actions. We must also use our words - what we say - to benefit others as the Apostle Paul admonished those in Colossae.

"Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, SEASONED WITH SALT, that you may know how you ought to answer each one" (Colossians 4:5-6).

What did Jesus mean by saying that salt which loses its savor is only fit to be walked upon? We know that Sodium Chloride will always taste the same as long as it remains chemically unchanged or pure. In a pure state, the mineral fulfills its primary purpose for existing. At the time of Jesus, houses in Jerusalem often had an upper room for guests or other special occasions. The floors of these rooms were made of wood overlaid with plaster. However, ordinary wall plaster was too soft to be walked upon without cracking and crumbling. The addition of salt to the plaster made it hard enough to use for floors. Its mixing with plaster, however, makes it impure and unable to fulfill its role as a seasoning agent. In such an irreversible state it is only good to be walked upon.

Christians, like salt, need to be pure in order to fulfill their purpose - which is to be a blessing for all humans through good works. When true believers mix with things like false doctrines, or the vain worship of God through unbiblical holidays like Easter and Christmas, etc. they lose their purity before him. Trying to mix worshiping and serving the true God with teachings, doctrines, and practices he does not approve of, renders such things useless and vain. In regard to this Jesus said: "'And in VAIN they (in reference to the Pharisees and scribes) worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men - the washing of pitchers and cups, and many other such things you do . . . All too well you reject the commandment of God, that you may keep your tradition'" (Mark 7:7-9).

The Christian calling requires us to be pure first so that the good works we are to do fulfills God's purpose to "flavor" or bless the world through them.