An open bag of Hawaiian potato chips lay on my dining room table. My son walked by, and I offered some to him. He took one look, then quickly shook his head. “Take some,” I insisted. But still he refused. “Why not?” I probed. He quietly pointed to the label. “They don’t have any salt!”
Do you like salt? Without it, food doesn’t seem to taste good. But the value of salt extends past merely enhancing the flavor of food. Throughout history, salt has been highly valued for both its symbolic and practical uses.
Salt was prized by the ancient world as a medium of exchange as well as a symbol of friendship and loyalty. During Roman times, soldiers were paid in salt. (In fact, the word salary is derived from the Latin word salarium, which means “salt money.”) Even today, the expression “worth one’s salt” implies earning one’s wages. In the Middle East, the desert-roaming Bedouins seal a covenant of good will with salt. The Arabs share a salted meal as a bond of friendship. Their phrases “he ate salt at my table” and “there is salt between us” mean they shared a meal and have accepted each other as friends.
Knowing the customs of people and the high value placed upon salt, God also made a “salt covenant” with His people to demonstrate, in terms they could understand, the seriousness of His commitment to them. “All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute forever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee.” Numbers 18:19.
Considering the social, economic, and medicinal uses of salt, no wonder Jesus compared various responsibilities of Christian life with the natural properties of these tiny granules. “Ye are the salt of the earth.” Matthew 5:13. In other words, we are to be salty Christians.
What specific qualities does salt have?
A thirst maker
Whenever salty foods such as nuts, chips, and crackers are consumed, thirst immediately results. Bars, for example, serve salted nuts to create a thirst that will, hopefully, be quenched by alcoholic beverages sold there. Soda and juice companies compete for customers by advertising their beverages as the perfect thirst-quenchers. But only water can truly quench the thirst caused by eating salt.
As salty Christians, we should try to encourage people to become spiritually thirsty. When our words and actions testify of a living, loving God, people will want to know more. They will thirst for “living water,” which Jesus offers freely.
Pickles and sauerkraut are preserved by salt. In the time of Christ, there were no refrigerators. Salt was used, therefore, to prevent food from spoiling. In the same way, salty Christians are a preserving influence in a decaying society. “Christians who are purified through the truth will possess saving qualities that preserve the world from utter moral corruption.” –Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 36.
Salt is also used to cure olives. Ripe olives are bitter, but processing in salt transforms them. Bitter people need the salt of Christ’s love in their hearts. We who know Jesus can have a transforming impact on the world.
A flavor enhancer
How does soup taste without salt? How about pizza? We are the salt of the world, or salty Christians. “The savor of the salt represents the vital power of the Christian—the love of Jesus in the heart, the righteousness of Christ pervading the life.” –Ibid.
Love, as displayed by Christians, is a powerful influence in an otherwise bitter world. People are bitter toward their bosses, teachers, the government, parents, children, and churches. Just as salt is used to cure the bitterest of olives, the salt of God’s love can be sprinkled by Christians into the hearts of the disheartened, and a transformation will take place. “If [love] is dwelling in us, it will flow out to others.” –Ibid. Christians feed the hungry, clothe the naked, help the discouraged, and pray for others.
Some supermarket employees were once instructed to be extra kind and extra helpful to customers and to smile always. These actions did not come naturally; the employees had to be told how to behave. Many complained that their bosses asked too much.
As Christians, we need to model joy and enthusiasm, but mostly love. Have we lost our love for our neighbors? Like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan, have we lost our concern for our fellow man? Do we simply pass by when we see others in need?
In the Amplified Bible, Matthew 5:13 reads, “If salt has lots its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no good for anything any longer.” Flavorless salt is worthless. A Christian without salt is one in name only. Salt that has lost its flavor represents “every soul from whom the power of the grace of God has departed, and who has become cold and Christless.” –Ibid., p. 37.
Salty Christians will present the gospel in an attractive and appealing manner. The simple beauty of the gospel can be lost in a list of “don’ts.”
- Don’t smoke
- Don’t wear jewelry
- Don’t dance
- Don’t go to movies
An ice melter
A while back, there was a snow storm in my town. I couldn’t get down my driveway because of the slippery ice. Afraid I wouldn’t get to church in time to give the morning service, I quickly called Jim Schendel to come pick me up. But while he was on his way, I experimented. I sprinkled a few handfuls of table salt on the driveway. The ice melted, and I was able to back my car down the driveway just in time to apologize to Jim for his unnecessary trip.
As salt melts ice, Christ’s love melts even the coldest of hearts. The world is cold and indifferent. It tries to influence us to become cold and indifferent to others too, to take on a “don’t care” attitude. Some churches are cold. Some Reformers are cold. Are you “a cold Christian”—or a salty one? “A cold, sunless religion never draws souls to Christ.” –Gospel Workers, p. 478.
We use Epsom salts for foot baths. We gargle with salt water when we have a sore throat. Salt is a proven remedy for infection.
During World War II, a ship named the Athena was attacked by a German U-boat. Although the passengers of the Athena were badly wounded, not one died. The wounded, because they had no medical supplies, dipped their bodies into the salty sea water and found healing.
Today too, people are wounded, hearts are hurting. The church ought to be a refuge where hurting people find healing. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound.” Isaiah 61:1.
There are many hurting people in the world. How do we treat them? Do we help them—or drive them away? Some people leave the church because of how they are treated by other church members. One resigning church member wrote this: “For the most part, I was a nameless, unnoticed face.… The church can be doctrinally pure, but please, please, let its doctrine be richly enshrined in a love that manifests itself in welcoming smiles, warm handshakes, follow-up, and friendships.”
Let’s bring healing to others. Let’s be the first to reach out. Let’s go to people and mingle with them like the salt is mixed with the food. Salt is sprinkled on food, not vice versa. You are the salt, not food waiting to be salted.
Salt is composed of two chemicals—sodium and chlorine. Sodium by itself is not salt but must be combined with chlorine. Similarly, our humanity must combine with the divinity of Christ. Then we become salty Christians.
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” John 15:4, 5.
Unity with Christ leads to unity with our brothers and sisters. “That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou has sent me.” John 17:21.
There is unity in diversity too. One time I looked at some granules of salt under a magnifying glass. I saw large ones, small ones, square ones, and round ones. Each was unique, yet all formed one compound—salt.
Let’s be salty Christians, filled with the love of Jesus, that those who know us may thirst for Him and be preserved from death. May our saltiness arouse a thirst for Christ, help preserve the world from corruption and “flavor” it with love, cure bitterness, melt hearts, and heal the wounded. United with Christ and one another, we will salt the world with His love.
A sermon delivered by Elder Henry Dering and recorded by Margie Holmstroem Seely