In His Sermon on the
Mount, Jesus told the disciples, Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the
salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be
cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. (Matthew 5:13)
As Christians we often
hear it said that we should be “salt and light,” and indeed, the statement “Ye
are the light of the world” occurs directly after the Lord’s example describing
believers as salt. Let’s consider for a
moment just what it means to be the “salt of the earth.”
First, and probably most
commonly known, salt enhances flavor, making foods more pleasant and
more palatable. What are potato chips or
French fries without salt? Just pieces
of potato. What’s the secret ingredient
in much Chinese food? MSG, also known as
monosodium glutamate; it is one of many types of salt. Just as salt enhances the flavor of foods, a
Christian’s walk with the Lord should enhance the beauty and the atmosphere of
the culture around him or her.
Imagine that the clerks at a local store are not known for their sanctified speech. Yet over the course of years of shopping there, acting kindly, and occasionally dropping off homemade treats with tracts, it becomes common for them to stop in midsentence when seeing members of your family, to warn one another to keep the language clean when you come into the store, or to offer an apology if one of them was cursing before seeing you standing there. That would be encouraging because it would be an acknowledgement that something is different about your family. Of course, that “something” is not you but rather the Holy Spirit working through you and your family to reach out and touch other lives for the glory of God.
Second, salt is a preservative, keeping deterioration at bay. In years past, families would store heavily salted meat in the fall for use throughout the winter. In my mother’s family when she was growing up, they would save eggs in a brine mixture to use during the months when the hens stopped laying. Throughout my childhood, I can still remember my grandmother splitting fish, salting them, and hanging them out on the clothesline to dry. In the days before refrigeration was common, salt helped preserve families’ foods for the long term, keeping it from spoiling. Likewise, through the witness and walk of faithful Christians, the cultural rot of modern America can be halted.
For example, we can avoid the ever-prevalent movies, television shows, and secular music that celebrate immorality and train us to think in ways opposed to the Lord and His Word. Instead, we can produce and/or patronize that which is true, lovely, and virtuous; and by our daily walk and conversation, we can call others to remember how our towns, our churches, and our homes looked just a few decades ago – when walking with the Lord was not only respected but was encouraged and was far more common.
Third, salt can be healing. I grew up working on a lobster boat in the summers. With the work came all sorts of cuts and scrapes. By working with my hands in the salty ocean water so much, though, the injuries healed well and remarkably fast. That gives hope that America’s downhill slide can not only be halted but can, Lord willing, be reversed. Though the task seems mountainous, take heart; a hundred years of decline cannot be cured in an instant. Just as a mountain is not climbed in a few steps or even with a quick sprint, America’s cultural cesspool will require a multi-generational solution. Not only must we be faithful in our day, but we must strive to ensure that future generations carry on the battle for liberty and righteousness as well.
Fourth, salt lowers the freezing point of water. Anyone living in the northeastern U.S. knows that water freezes at 32o Fahrenheit. Through the winter months we check the outside temperature, knowing that as it approaches that point, it greatly changes how we drive and how long it takes to get places. Applying salt to icy roads, however, can cause the ice to melt. Using a solution of 10% salt and 90% water lowers the freezing point from 32o to 20o. Increasing the salt content to 20% lowers it further, all the way to 2o. Just as applying salt to ice causes it to melt, consider how many rock-hard, ice-cold hearts could be softened by consistent, prayerful application of the love of Christ. And as the number of committed Christians grew, that sort of witness would become harder and harder for unbelievers to ignore as the world changed around them.
And fifth, on the other end of the temperature spectrum, salt also raises the boiling point of water. Sprinkling some salt in your pot of water means it will require a temperature of more than the usual 212o for it to boil. We’ve all seen boiling water bubbling furiously, letting off steam, and occasionally boiling over. As a believer walks with the Lord, the indwelling Holy Spirit can add peace, stability, and a resistance to the heat that comes in the tough times of life. Just as salt can help keep hotter water under control, so too can a Christian’s quiet responses in the face of adversity point others to the Master.
Was the Lord aware of all these properties of salt when He made the comparison? Of course! He created not only salt and us, but anything and everything around us too. And no doubt He has hidden many more mysteries for us to discover. As we study His Word and His world, as we faithfully walk with Him day by day, as we share His love with others, then we can begin to see change—one life, one home, one town at a time. May the Lord grant us the courage to be the salt that will help restore our nation’s faith in Him.
“Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:5-6)
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