You are sitting in a crowd looking at Jesus who in the manner of a rabbi is seated most likely on a large rock. He’s not standing. He has just said (Matthew 5:11,12), his followers should be glad when they are persecuted because they will receive a reward in heaven. Then he says, You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?
At that point, wouldn’t you and I be thinking, “Yes, I get it, Jesus. I’m going to tell others about you in my own town even if I’m misunderstood.”
We would most likely be thinking that this little rebellion Jesus is working on, of which many small groups have been crushed by the Romans, will deliver us from the cruel domination of the Romans when Jesus is established as the new king. Then no mean solider will harass me on the street.
In those moments, could we possibly have a sense of the magnitude of what Jesus knows will happen?
No. We can’t see through the ages to understand Jesus’s teaching—the Gospel which is his sacrificial death for the forgiveness of sins and the restoration of the relationships between God and man—will spread throughout the whole world. The saltiness he’s referring to will reach every nation to develop a thirst for knowing God through Jesus.
Jesus tells his listeners they are the salt of the earth which means they have an incredible purpose as God’s representatives. He is urging them to not lose their saltiness because his plans are greater than they can imagine, even if they are persecuted.
We know Jesus always purposefully crafts his words and his reference to salt is clear to his listeners.
There are three basic purposes of salt: thirst, preservation, and seasoning. Jesus teaches us to desire to:
create spiritual thirst in others
act as a preservative for godliness in culture
be attractive seasoning through our fruitful lives of peace, joy, and love
If we stop or diminish those influences by not representing Jesus rightly, Jesus says also in verse 13, our spiritual saltiness “is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.”
Commentators believe Jesus might be referring to how salt which was stored for holy purposes in the temple could become unfit. As a result, it was sprinkled upon the roadways and possibly the steps of the temple to protect the priests from slipping. Salt which could have a superior impact would basically became a kind of gravel. Jesus wanted his followers to know he had much higher purposes than them being walked on.
The wonderful thing about being spiritual salt is that God is in charge of the result.
Even when we represent Him well, we can’t force anyone to become spiritually thirsty, or culture be preserved, or the fruit of the Holy Spirit within us to be attractive to others. God must work but He graciously and generously wants to use us to be a part of the process.
- What does it mean to you that Jesus’s generosity is expressed through Jesus pointing to the impact a believer’s spiritual saltiness can mean?
- Can you think of a time you obeyed God’s direction and it turned into something bigger than you would have expected?