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When Salt Loses it Saltiness

Are You Salt and Light?

Jesus was preaching the sermon on the mount and this is some of the first teaching we see from.  As the crowds gather around him we see him preaching from the mountainside to reach the crowds of people.  After preaching through the beatitudes (the attitudes of life that we are to have) we see him start with this teaching.

Matthew 5:13-16

Salt and Light

13 “You are

And if we could stop right there for a moment.  Notice what he didn’t say.  He didn’t say you are becoming.  He didn’t say even say you are doing.  He didn’t see we are collectively as a group.  He didn’t even say that He is though certainly that would have been true.  He starts with a simple stamen “YOU ARE.”

the salt of the earth,

And that is what a Christian is in its purest form.  Salt.  Salt of the Earth.  And so we have to understand what Salt is and does not only in our day but in the day that Jesus was preaching.

As Pliny wrote:  “Sine sale, vita humana non potest degere’ – “Without salt human life cannot be sustained.”  Yes, this is how important Jesus saw His Christian disciples – without them, His ministers, life cannot be sustained.  It was important enough for Jesus say again in Mark 9:50 “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again?  Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

  1. Salt is used for preserving food, to stop its rotting and decay.

Think about salt when it’s used as a preservative.  When salt is rubbed into meat, it’s purpose is to slow down decay.  I believe one of the points Jesus was making to us about being salt is this - as His disciples we are to act as a preservative to this world.  As a preservative, we become sort of a moral disinfectant.  We help to keep things fresh and alive.  We help to defeat corruption and poisonous decay.  We add purity where behavior is questionable.  And one of the things we can do as Christians to accomplish this is to retain the kingdom virtues, that is, hold on to what we know is true according to the Scripture, and cling to what is right.  This is especially important when all about us we see the decline of morals, and values, and integrity, when doing the right thing and standing on principles that are timeless are challenged. 

  1. Salt is used to add and enhance flavor and bring out its natural taste.

Unsalted food is typically bland and flavorless and usually of no particular joy to eat.  But add some salt to that and it begins to pop with flavor.  It brings out the natural taste that was already there and hidden.  And that is also our job as Christians.  We are to enhance and bring flavor to this dark and dying world.  We are as Jesus prayed to “let your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” We are to bring a little flavor to our environments, work places, and places of influence. 

but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?

What Jesus is really saying to us here is this:  We – His disciples – all Christian leaders – all Christians – if we lose our saltiness, if we lose our ability to preserve and flavor the earth for Him, what then?  If we lose our ability to do that for Him, how then will the peoples of earth be preserved?  How will the people’s lives on earth be made flavorsome, tasty and a joy?  How will life continue – for without salt, there is no life.

The salt we use is common salt or as Wikipedia says “sodium chloride, also known as salt, common salt, table salt or halite, is an ionic compound with the formula NaCl.”   Now if you take the Na or the Cl out of NaCl, it is no longer salt and is toxic; but that just does not normally happen.  For sure, Jesus was not talking about factory pure packed common salt, as we know it today.  Then we have sea salt, and rock salt.   But sea salt is 85.6% NaCl (common salt) with additional minerals left behind as sea water is evaporated and again, a fairly stable product not prone to lose its saltiness.   This leaves us with rock saltRock salt is the mineral form of sodium chloride and was formed when salty waters dried out, resulting in layers of salt which vary in purity, from pure sodium chloride in clear crystal form, to that which is mixed with soil and plant material.  Now this seems more akin to the words of Jesus.  In fact “Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible” says:

“In eastern countries, however, the salt used was impure, or mingled with vegetable or earthy substances, so that it might lose the whole of its saltiness, and a considerable quantity of earthy matter remain.  This was good for nothing, except that it was used to place in paths, or walks, as we use gravel.  This kind of salt is common still in that country.  It is found in the earth in veins or layers, and when exposed to the sun and rain, loses its saltiness entirely.  Maundrell says, “I broke a piece of it, of which that part that was exposed to the rain, sun, and air, though it had the sparks and particles of salt, yet it had perfectly lost its savor.  The inner part, which was connected to the rock, retained its savor, as I found by proof.”

In the ancient world, salt was not always derived from evaporating sea water to a pure white form, but came from the salt marshes containing many impurities.  When the salt from this salty concoction leached out from dampness, it left behind a diluted residue which was worthless, so the residue was thrown out on the street to be trampled underfoot.

Of the substances in this mix the NaCl was the most soluble in water and if exposed to moisture the NaCl would disappear leaving a white powder looking just like salt, but not having its flavor or its preservative abilities.

It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that[b] they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

So, Jesus, in another story like form brings his point home by offering yet another illustration of who you are, not who you are becoming, who we are, are who He was.  He says who you are.

You are salt yes.  Preserve yes.  Bring Flavor and enhancement yes.

But You are also light. 

We are to shine brightly in a dark world.  So many time Christians will get caught up in shining brighter than other Christians.  Let’s compare you are a 40 watt but I am 60 or 80 or 100.  And we stay in the four corners of the church trying to outshine each other. 

But you would never do that in the physical.  You would never just keep on adding bulbs to a room that is already lit with light would you? Let me just added more bulbs…(story of Ted light)

But that is not the purpose of light.  Light’s purpose is to bring light into darkness. 

So maybe He is not rescuing you from your job, work, sphere of influence, or family…

HE IS CALLING YOU TO BE LIGHT INTO THE DARKNESS!!  Salt and Light.

You are to be salt and light.  And how are we to do that? And what if you have lost your saltiness or light? Could we do a simple test through the Beatitudes?  Look at the first part of Matthew where Jesus starts this whole thing off in the first place.  With salt and light descriptives.

Matthew 5: 3-11 The Beatitudes (let’s do a simple test like I did in 8th grade Science Class)

And he (Jesus) opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit (humble), for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (salt)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. (salt)

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (salt)

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. (salt)

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy. (salt and light)

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (salt and light)

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons[a] of God. (salt and light)

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (light)

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (light)