Cooking is one of my favorite hobbies. Growing up with a dad who was a chef helped ignite a passion in me for food and confidence in the kitchen even as a young girl. I am a rule follower by nature, but when it came to cooking I didn’t have to stick with the rules, so it was a creative outlet for me.
In the kitchen, I get to omit or add ingredients based on how the food looks and tastes, which makes the process fun. But I have always been cautious with salt because if you add too much, there is nothing you can do to fix it. So I have my husband taste test and, more often than not, I have to add more salt. Salt is necessary. You can add all the spices, but it is only once you add salt that you can actually taste all the flavors. Salt enhances the goodness of the dish, which makes you want more of it and leaves you satisfied.
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus says to His followers, “You are the salt of the earth…” (NIV).
Salt served even greater purposes during biblical times and culture than it does today. In Leviticus 2:13 and 2 Chronicles 13:5, we read about the salt of the covenant. Salt was used as a purifier and a preservative. Salt symbolized something as holy, set apart for God. So when Jesus tells this crowd they are the salt of the earth they might have been shocked. He was essentially welcoming them into the covenant community, but He wasn’t talking to the religious elite or priestly class, He was talking to regular, everyday people. And instead of telling them to do certain things to belong, He tells them they already do!
“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus says. Salt — vital, necessary, acceptable, useful, worthy; this was His promise to the people.
Did you know that salt comes from water? Jesus often refers to Himself as Living Water:
“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink” (John 7:37 NIV). “… but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4: 14 NIV).
So then if we are salt that means we are formed from Jesus and have qualities like Him. It is not in our own power that we can be salt, but it is Christ in us.
If you grew up in church, you may have heard salt used for ministry names. I was in a college Bible study group called SALT, and it was an acronym for Servants After the Living Truth. It was predominantly Indian –American Christian students who gathered together every Thursday night to worship and study Scripture. We even had royal blue t-shirts with a salt shaker graphic. SALT was like church and family time for most of us. SALT provided godly friends and helped me stay firm in my faith — but I don’t think this is what Jesus meant when He called His followers to be salt.
Jesus didn’t declare we are the salt of heaven. We are called to be the salt of the EARTH, set apart as holy to God to preserve and purify the places we step foot each day.
To be salt as Jesus calls us is to go into places that are bland and broken, and make those places beautiful and good.
To be salt is to walk into every room knowing you have a God-given purpose and influence in that room.
To be salt to is shift the atmosphere of the spaces we sit in every day by the way we interact with those in our world. The neighborhoods, schools, and workplaces we walk into should be different because we are there!
How often do we truly live like salt though?
Jesus came to invade our hearts and minds with the Truth and transform the world with the Good News. Jesus came to change everything. Just as the Father sent Jesus into the world, so Jesus sends us (John 17:18 NIV).
But many of us are like me with cooking — overly cautious about putting salt into the pot, afraid of what might happen. So we just gather together with our Christian t-shirts instead of going into the world and bringing Jesus to those who need Him. Instead of being Jesus’s world-changing salt, we have simply become salty — angry, defensive, irritated, and overly sensitive. Too much salt in one dish is not desirable and will only leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth.
Jesus warns us of the danger of a diminished witness. He says if salt loses its saltiness, it’s good for nothing. You might as well throw it out and trample it underfoot (Matthew 5:13). There are so many causes of our diminished witness today: hypocrisy, leadership failures, political idolatry, mistreating people, lack of empathy, and the list goes on.
What if as followers of Jesus made an intentional choice to BE salt? Let’s refuse to be salty, and choose instead to be the salt of the earth, making wherever we go richer, better, and more satisfying because of Jesus in us.