May 22, 2014

The Salt of the Earth

Matthew 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.”

What does Jesus mean when he proclaims that his disciples are the salt of the earth?  The uses for salt today are very different than its uses during the days of Jesus.  Today the primary use of salt is that of flavoring.  French fries, potato chips, and vegetables just would not taste as good if it were not for salt.  In fact, most American dinner table have salt shakers at their center for quickness, convenience, and just in case of a taste bud emergency.  However, salt had a very different use during the time of Jesus.  Salt was used as a preservative.  Refrigerators, ice chests, or deep freezers did not yet exist, so storing meat for any long amount of time was simply not an option.  However, where they to rub salt into their meat they could preserve its freshness for a while longer so that if would not spoil and be of no healthy use.  This is how Jesus’ disciples would have understood this metaphor of salt and its implication would have been plain to them.  By stating that they were the salt of the earth he was implying that they are to be used as a preservative for this world.

Christ intends the same thing for his followers today that he did for his followers of the first century.  He desires that his followers today will preserve this world from corruption and even impending judgment from God.  To be the salt of the earth literally means that Christians need to “rub” themselves into the meat of the world so that it will not spoil.  It is to proclaim and practice the word of God and preserve the world from straying far from that word.  Paul seconds this calling bestowed upon the believer when he writes,

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…all this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation…therefore we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. (2 Corinthians 6:17-20)

God has uniquely given his church the responsibility of being his trumpeting agent of his gospel to the world.  Christ has called his church to be about “building up the body of Christ.”  To give a solid understanding of the importance of fulfilling its call, Paul reminds the Roman church that,

But how are they to call on him in whom that have not believed?  And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard?  And how are they to hear without someone preaching?  And how are they to preach unless they are sent?  As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news! (Romans 10:14-15) 

One must notice that Christ makes a declarative and descriptive statement when he says that they are the salt of the earth.  He doesn’t say that they are to become the salt of the earth nor that they might at sometimes be the salt of the earth and others times not, rather he simply states that they are.  It is a constant and continual condition that every believer in Christ possesses.  Simply by entering a relationship with Jesus Christ means that you automatically become the salt of the earth.  God has endowed a purpose for the Christian’s life.  It cannot be taken away, nor is it an option.  However, it can be nullified and becomes wasteful. 

Salt is a chemical compound known as sodium chloride.  Sodium chloride is one of the strongest compounds that exists and cannot be separated.  Salt cannot become non-salt.  Jesus certainly chose an excellent metaphor to compare the status of the believer has.  His relationship with Christ cannot be dissolved nor separated.  However, while sodium chloride cannot be separated, it can be contaminated.  Mixture with certain other chemicals can make it a void substance, having no effectiveness, and thereby nullifying its use.  It can as Christ says “lose its taste.”  The Christian, therefore, can lose his or her effectiveness in this world.  As stated early the follower of Christ is to pattern his or her life characteristic of the holiness of Christ.  In his letter to the Roman church, Paul reminds his audience that the believer is to “not be conformed to the pattern of this world.”  Followers of Christ are to be like him, resembling his holiness, love, faith, and character.

Today, many individual of us have nullified our effective witness and salt ministry to the world.  We have chosen not to pursue and grow in our relationship with the Father.  Many are living a lifestyle of disobedience, not much different from many of those of the world.  A Christian easily loses his or her effective witness when they practice and participate the same immoral things nonbelievers do.  Many Christians have allowed themselves to become ignorant of the basics of the faith, not knowing what they believe and why they believe it.  Others have adopted the relativistic and pluralistic philosophies of their postmodern culture, assuming that Christianity has no significant standing or meaning over and above any other religion and worldview.  Many of us have become unsalty as our thinking, lifestyle, worldview, and behavior are no different from one who does not believe in the Christ. 

Many churches and maybe even the church as a whole have compromised their reputation and effectiveness before the world as well.  When the church remains silent on the issues that the bible speaks of as immoral and sinful it begins to lose its saltiness.  Issues such as homosexuality, abortion, premarital sex, divorce, pride and power, and sadly sin and sinful nature are ignored in churches and sermons.   When the church diminishes its view of scripture and thereby questions much of the Bible’s validity and significance it becomes no different than the world.  Many churches have allowed immorality to flood their leadership and membership.  Others have organized themselves like local country clubs ignoring the lost and dyeing world and focusing on the self-esteem, health, and wealth of its membership.  Other churches have adopted questionable corporate and business practices in order to make budget and grow membership.  When the church loses its saltiness it becomes an institution that Christ describes as “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”

            Not only can salt just become null when mixed with certain chemicals, but when mixed with other certain chemicals it can become dangerous and toxic, even to the touch.  Sodium chloride is in fact one of the active ingredients that makes up the hydrogen bomb.  No wonder Christ said that bad salt needs to thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.  When the believer compromises his or her lifestyle and beliefs he or she can become harmful and damaging to the cause of Christ.  One of the frequent excuses many nonbelievers sight for not being interest in or attending church is because of all the “hypocrites” in the church.  By compromising ones pursuit of holiness he or she presents a message that Christianity is a weak, shallow, and meaningless religion.