“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13
Salt has a lot of great properties. People have known that for a long time. One of the oldest existing pieces of writing is from China and describes two methods of extracting salt.
Salt is essential to human life. I’m sure you have noticed that sweat, tears, and even blood tastes salty.
And I’m sure we all remember from our earliest school science that salt is made up of two chemical elements, sodium and chlorine. Your body has to have both of these elements to survive. However, your body can’t produce either one. But neither can it receive either of them in their pure form.
If you managed to swallow some sodium – that is if you didn’t throw up from the violent reaction it would have to the moisture in your mouth or esophagus – and it got to your stomach, it would react with your stomach acid and explode. Sodium is one of the most reactive elements in the world.
At room temperature, chlorine is a gas. A poisonous gas. If you breathe, swallow or even have skin contact with chlorine, it mixes with the water in your body and produce corrosive acids.
Yet your body can’t live without sodium and chlorine, so God made salt. It goes in perfectly edible and breaks down when and where your body needs it, so the sodium and chlorine can combine with other elements to form all sorts of chemicals you need to survive.
But Jesus didn’t focus on the chemical properties of salt or its health benefits.
Salt has also be used for thousands of years as a preservative. In the days before refrigeration, salt was used to keep meat edible after it would have otherwise gone rancid. I’m sure that’s what the Egyptians were doing when they used various salt recipes for preserving the mummies. I’m sure without it in the heat of the Egyptian summer, those dead Pharaohs would have gotten pretty ripe pretty fast.
You could say that we keep a rotting world from going rancid. Having rejected God and been subject to sin and death, we preserve it. That’s a nice analogy, but I don’t think it is good theology, because God doesn’t want to preserve a dead world, or the dead people in it. He wants to bring it, and them, back to life again.
But Jesus didn’t focus on the preservative properties of salt.
Jesus just focused on one of the properties of salt to make His point: salt is salty.
Jesus says, “If the salt loses its flavor, how shall it (the earth) be seasoned?”
Salt has its own unique taste. It is one of the five basic tastes. As an ingredient in a dish, or added afterwards, it changes the whole flavor of the food. It seasons it. It imparts its taste to the food. The food becomes salty.
If you want to see how effective salt is, just use too much. You forod quickly become unpalatable.
But Jesus isn’t worried that His audience is going to affect the earth too much. He’s much more concerned about them affecting it too little. If we get mixed into the earth – the world and its people – and we don’t change its flavor – enhance its flavor – then how is it going to be improved?
Jesus wants us to impart the flavor of His teaching into the world. Remember at this point, at the beginning of Jesus ministry, all we have are the things that He is teaching. The “you” to whom He is speaking are the multitudes who are following Him because of the miracles He has done. These are not discussions with his inner circle of disciples who will become the Apostles. These are not people who are even privy to the message that He will suffer and die.
So while being the salt of the earth can include sharing the good news that Jesus died and rose again, here the focus is just on these simple teachings of how to live and behave before God and before other people. It other words, people will know the truth of the power of saving Gospel in your life by how you live your life in accordance with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
You need to flavor the world with how you live your life. The world around you needs to taste different because you have been a part of it.