“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. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16)
In the ancient world, salt has two primary functions. The first was a preservative. Salt was rubbed into meat to slow down decay. To this day, if you go to the Middle East, they have open air markets with meat hanging everywhere. It’s not for the faint of heart. Preserving food was very important in a society that didn’t have freezers and refrigerators.
Salt was also used the same way we use it. If someone says, “Pass the salt,” do you think, “Oh, he wants to preserve his food”? No. He wants to add flavor. Salt gives flavor. Even adding a little salt to watermelon brings out the flavor.
Jesus says that we are the salt of the earth. The “we” here is Christians. It’s important to make that point as he is not just talking about good, moral people. He is speaking to people who have reward in heaven—Christians (verse 12); true authentic followers of Jesus.
He goes on to ask the question, if salt loses its saltiness, what good is it? If salt no longer has the effect it is supposed to, what value does it have? It has none. Salt that isn’t salty is useless salt.
Imagine that the church is a salt shaker. Inside the salt shaker, we love each other, support each other, encourage each other, and serve alongside each other. Inside the salt shaker, it’s really salty. If you like salt, there’s no better place than in the salt shaker. As more and more people come, we’ve been filling the salt shaker with more and more salt.
As long as the salt is still in the salt shaker, what good is it? What happens to salt that stays in the salt shaker a long time? It gets crusty. We enjoy being cozy with other grains of salt. We enjoy the safety of being in the salt shaker. We can talk and study and read books about the adventures other salt had when they dared to get out of the salt shaker, but as long as we’re comfy in the salt shaker, we’re having no influence on the culture and the community around us and we’re not fulfilling our purpose.
The church makes the salt salty and then shakes our salt out into a community that desperately needs the transformation the power of the gospel brings. Have you ever listened carefully as you have shaken salt? Try it at your next meal. If you listen very carefully as you shake, you will hear screams like, “I don’t want to go…! I like it in here…!” “No…!” When you hear that, just say, “Good for nothing salt!” That’s what Jesus calls it. You see the point? For salt to have influence it has to get out of the salt shaker. For the church to have its effect, Christians cannot be bottled up in themselves or in the church, but must be in the community and in the world.
Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president of the United States, told the story of being in a barbershop one time:
“I was sitting in a barber chair when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic service, because Mr. D.L. Moody was in that chair. I purposely lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew something had elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should have left a place of worship.” (John MacArthur, Matthew, p. 236)
Friends, that’s influence. That’s salt. Lest you be discouraged as any comparison to D.L. Moody produces, what Jesus is sharing here is achievable for all of us.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
©2012 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
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