A young boy went away to summer camp for the first time. When he returned home, his mom asked him what his new friends thought about him being a Christian. He proudly replied, “No problem, Mom! Not one of them ever even guessed it!”
Humorous? Yes. But also tragic—and, unfortunately, too realistic. Many professed Christians go about the normal traffic patterns of daily life, and no one has a clue about their faith. In an increasingly decaying and decadent society, our Lord reminds us that we are the “salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). All too often, however, the salt does lose its flavor.
Jesus had a unique way of using the simplest, most common things to illustrate the deepest truths. He spoke of shepherds and their sheep, lilies of the field, and birds in the air. In this chapter’s question, Jesus compares His followers to salt and warns us of the tragic result should we lose our flavor. Jesus says, “It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (v. 13). Since Jesus has declared you and me “the salt of the earth,” it is imperative that we understand four major effects we believers should therefore have on the culture around us.
One of my fondest boyhood memories is of our family’s annual summer trek from Texas to the hills of Tennessee where my dad grew up. We spent those days with my Uncle Lester and Aunt Idele, who owned a small one-room country store in the mountains nine miles out of Pikeville. Even as i type these words, my mouth waters as I remember the taste of their salt-cured country ham each morning. Those slabs of meat were stored in a large wooden box in a cellar behind their house. In the bottom of the box, a piece of ham was placed on a layer of salt, then another layer of salt and ham, and so on until the box was filled. That ham was perfectly preserved in the salt without the aid of refrigeration. That’s because salt is a preservative.
We are living in a decaying culture, and when something decays, it falls apart. Many of our social structures that used to be sound and secure are rotting away. Marriages and morals are continuing to decay at a high rate. And Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth.” The only thing standing in the way of an entire cultural collapse are those believers who are truly preserving the earth by being “salt” in their daily lives before others. Salt preserves.
Food without salt is tasteless and flat. But when added, a little salt brings great flavor to a meal. Christians are to life what salt is to food. Authentic Christianity always leaves people with a good taste in their mouth.
Our Lord was never discouraged that His disciples were few in number relative to the masses needing to be reached. He knew it only took a very little salt to flavor a much larger mass. i thought about this recently when i was preparing to eat a large baked potato. i cut into it and ate a bite or two without any real satisfaction. Then i sprinkled a bit of salt over it. Relatively speaking, the salt amounted to very little in proportion to the mass of that huge potato. But the next bite told the tale—just a few grains flavored the whole meal. So often, as believers, we think we cannot have much influence by our meager actions, but it just takes a little salt to make a huge difference at school, in the neighborhood, at the office, or wherever we might be. Salt not only preserves, it also flavors.
Susie and I raised our girls in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on the beautiful gold Coast of the Atlantic Ocean. Any person who has ever gone into that saltwater with a scratch on their body can testify that salt stings! When it meets an open wound, that salt makes its presence known—and does so in a hurry.
When Jesus said we are the salt of the earth, He meant that our very lives should bring conviction to—should sting—the people around us. While it is important that our presence serves to both preserve and flavor a culture, there should also be an aspect of our presence that stings when it comes into contact with worldly actions and attitudes. Too many believers seem to think they are to be like honey and soothe our sin-sick world instead of being like salt that stings in order to convict. When our Lord called us salt, He meant for us to not only preserve and flavor our culture, He meant to use our example to convict others of their need for Jesus as they see Him alive in us.
Salt Creates a Thirst
The owner of the local movie theater in our town, Jerry, gloriously came to Christ as an adult. A few weeks after his conversion, he stopped by to see me and to confess something about which he had become convicted in his newfound faith. He explained that he had instructed his employees to always add extra salt to every box of popcorn they sold. Logically, this served to make the people thirsty; they, in turn, would buy extra or larger soft drinks while watching the movie. Yes, salt has its unique way of making us thirsty.
Is it any wonder that Jesus calls us to be the salt of the earth? There should be that ingredient in our lives that makes people thirsty for what we have in Christ. When Jesus walked among the ways of this world, He attracted all sorts of needy people. The Pharisees repelled the publicans and sinners who were drawn to Jesus. Why? Because He made them thirsty for what only He could give.
Tragically, in our world today, the salt seems to be losing its flavor. In the words of our Lord, when this happens, it becomes “good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13). Each of us who are called by His name need to begin to see ourselves as salt. We “are the salt of the earth” (v. 13). Little does our world system realize that the presence of God’s people is preventing the final collapse of our civilization and ultimate judgment. We are the only ones who can truly flavor the lives of those around us, sometimes even sting them a bit, and make them thirsty for the Living water that enables us to never thirst again!
Q & A: “If salt loses its flavor, how shall [the earth] be seasoned?” it can’t; it will simply be flat and “good for nothing.” This is the real heart of the issue. As more and more Christians retreat within the comforts and convenience of the church, their salt will lose its flavor. We are commissioned to go out and be the salt of the earth, and not just salt for the church. The lost are waiting for each of us to get out among them, truly being the kind of salt that preserves, flavors, stings, and makes them thirsty for Christ.