In Matthew 5:13, we are told that we “are the salt of the earth.” For many, this verse from the Bible is incredibly familiar as we have heard it time and time again at church, in Sunday school, and during worship.
“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. -Matthew 5:13
I was contemplating this scripture today and found myself wondering why Jesus would tell his disciples that they are the “salt of this earth.” It’s a strange concept when you think about it especially as, although we are capable of being “salty,” we are also capable of losing our “saltiness.” Where then does that put us?
Let’s go back to the many uses of salt, seen throughout the Bible and the cultures of those who lived during that time.
In Ancient Rome, salt was something to be collected and accepted with a grateful heart, as Roman soldiers would receive their wages in salt. It could then be used to sell, barter, or trade for provisions of which they were in need.
Salt was also used to preserve meat. It is a somewhat complicated scientific process, but to put it simply, salt prevents bacteria from growing as it reduces the moisture in the meat. It does this by drawing moisture from the inside of the meat out to the surface. Similarly, salt was also used as a disinfectant to kill bacteria. We see this in 2 Kings 2:20-22.
He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.
In Leviticus, we also learn that all grain offerings made to the Lord from the Israelites had to contain salt. In Mosaic Law, the offerings made to God had to be done so with the utmost care and consideration for it to be pleasing to the Lord. It encouraged the Israelites to make offerings very deliberately and with their entire heart, showing their commitment to God and His presence in their lives.
You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.- Leviticus 2:13
Needless to say, salt was seen as incredibly valuable, but does it give us an understanding of how we are the salt of this earth? With its many uses, how can we discern what it means to be “salt?”
Matthew 5 states that we “are salt.” So, if we “are salt” as God’s children, who also carry His goodness, love, grace, power, and glory, we can preserve the goodness and love that God gives us. We can provide opportunities of hope and life to people just as salt acted as a provision. Through ministering to others, we are capable of showing how God can bring out their best. Through believing that we have the same power as God, we can heal people.
When Jesus says that we “are the salt of the earth,” we have a deep responsibility. With every action that we do, every word that we speak, and every relationship that we nurture and steward, we have the opportunity to show God’s goodness.
As Matthew 5 says, however, we can lose our “saltiness.” Salt is only useful if it is capable of being everything that it was created to be- if it is not, then it is just a mineral that has no purpose. If it has no purpose- then what can it be used for? To remain as the salt of the world, we need to continue to look to the source; God. As we improve our relationship with Him and grow in our faith, we can help others understand who He is and why a relationship with Him should be stewarded above all others.
How will you be “salt” to the earth?