Matt. 5:13 "You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
So what does salt really do? Why would Jesus use salt to illustrate a point and what was its significance for those people at that time?
Salt was a major source of income and a valuable trading commodity in Jesus' time. There were entire populations of people who gained their wealth and lived off of the value of salt.
Salt, as they would know it, would have 2 main uses; flavor and preserving. A white rock composed of sodium chloride that has a taste like no other element. Serving bread and salt together as invited guests arrive is still a common custom in many parts of the world. Without some salt all humans and animals would not survive. I like just a little extra salt in my chocolate chip cookies.
Salt was a also used as a preservative. Of course there was no refrigeration in Jesus' day, so when they killed an animal it was advantageous to have some way to make the meat last for more than a day. The sun was hot and meat would spoil rapidly, so discovering the properties of salt was very helpful. Salted fish was brought from far away and traded for various items of need. Salt was also used in the embalming process.
So what was Jesus thinking when He told His disciples "You are the salt of the earth"? He had just given them a list of things they should "Be" and He follows that up with salt.
As Christians we should be so much different than the world. We obviously have the same bodies and if you line us up with non Christians there would be no way to tell us apart. But we are to be very different in our actions and who we are. Jesus is telling His disciples that they are to be the preserving element in the world. They are to go through this life and be as salt to the people around them.
What might this look like? When you walk into a room and everyone is talking trashy, they should know that you are a Christian and they should stop. When they stop talking in an inappropriate manner there is a preserving affect for those who were listening. What they were listening to was not edifying, so our being salt helped to preserve them. Our prayers help to preserve non believers. Our righteous actions help to preserve our communities. Our treating others the way God intended, is preserving kindness and hospitality. We may be the only salt around, but a little salt goes a long way.
It is interesting that Jesus goes immediately into what happens if we lose our saltiness. Salt, left out in the sun, air and water, looses it effectiveness; it becomes a white-ish colored rock that is not good for anything. Jesus is telling the disciples that if they are salt and if they let their saltiness go away, they are not good for anything and will be used as gravel for the roads and paths.
Jesus was serious about what we as Christians are to be and do. He didn't beat around the bush at all. He expects us to be flavoring our conversations with salt, preserving those around us that need preserving and if we are not doing that, we are like branches that don't produce; they are cut off in thrown into the fire.
How's your saltiness today? Are you the preserving one in your circle of influence, or are you the one who needs to be salted?