Matthew 5:13 13 “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 underfoot.
What does Christ mean when he tells his disciples they are the salt of the earth? Although these words we’re spoken by our Lord over 2000 years ago, salt is just as common today as it was then. But in the context of its primary use, we may understand salt differently than his original audience would have.
Salt has many functions, and for that reason this verse has multiple interpretations. To the 21st century American, the first thought would be that salt enhances the flavor of food, and thus Christians are to enhance the flavor of the world around them, spice things up if you will.
Others will point to the whiteness of salt and implore the followers of Jesus to remain pure and spotless. Others still would say that as salt we are to create a thirst for Christ in the people that we come in contact with.
A versatile substance isn't it?!
In many respects, all of these interpretations are what followers of Jesus should be but none of those would have been the first thoughts for Jesus’s original audience. The multitudes, sprawled across the mount would have heard salt and thought, preservative.
Life in the first century didn’t include the luxuries of refrigeration and modern food preservation methods. When Peter and Andrew would haul in their nets bursting with fish, they needed a way to ensure the meat would not spoil between the boat and the marketplace, and this is where salt comes in.
Salt was used to slow the decay of meat and in the desert climate of the Middle East; food would be rendered useless in very little time, unless it was salted. The original hearers of the Sermon on the Mount would have heard Jesus’s words and known that his followers must resemble salt’s ability to preserve. But it’s not dinner that Christians must keep from spoiling; it’s the morality of the world we live in that Christ calls us to preserve. We are to stop the spread of the evil inherent in a sinful and fallen world.
If you’re reading this and your first thought is to grab your sign and go picket some event you deem sinful, I would advise you to pump the breaks. While there are times where Christians need to oppose the sin that is intertwined within contemporary culture, being salt generally looks far simpler than a protest.
We have all seen what it looks like. Imagine a group of coworkers standing around the water cooler. One by one they take turns making fun of a fellow officemate who is absent from the circle. As the laughs and the gossip roar on, someone new joins the circle. This coworker is not the type to talk bad about someone behind their back and everyone else knows it.
Without saying a word, this one person has made all the others uncomfortable and they no longer feel like continuing with the current topic of conversation.
That is the power of salt; it will oppose moral decay at every turn, often times without saying a word.
But look at Jesus’s warning in verse 13, “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 underfoot.” How does salt lose its saltiness? It’s not until salt is mixed with another substance that it is diluted and thus useless. One grain of salt on your tongue will reverberate throughout your entire mouth. But mix it with water and you may not even notice it’s there.
If a follower of Christ looks so much like the evil around them, they can't expect to have an impact on it. We are not called to blend in but to stand out. Notice how Christ doesn’t tell his followers to be salt, he says they already are! As we genuinely follow Christ we become the type of people who will not conform to the sin around us but instead we will repel its advance.
That means that the people around us will sometimes feel uncomfortable because of us for no other reason than we won't join them in their decay. Don't be afraid to make others uncomfortable, because in their discomfort they may not want to join in next time either.