Friday, April 27, 2018

You Are the Salt of the Earth

In the Sermon on the Mount we read, “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.” We are helped in our understanding of our Lord’s words here by remembering two ways that salt functions. First, salt seasons. Think about the food you ate recently. Did you shake a little salt on it? Why? Because salt adds some season to the food! Second, salt preserves. Before the days of refrigeration salt was used to preserve food. It was rubbed into meat, for example, as a means of preserving the meat for later consumption. We could elaborate on why it is that salt adds savor or how it actually functions as a preserving agent, but the main point of the two uses of salt cited above is this: salt is different from the thing it comes in contact with.[1] Therefore, at the most rudimentary level, to be the salt of the earth is to be different from the world. In other words, there is a marked distinction between people who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and those who have not. Those who have been transformed by the powerful working of God now see life through a new lens and live in a way that is different than before (Col 3:1-4).

When followers of Christ fail to live in such a way that is distinct from the world, our witness is compromised, and we fail to live with purpose. The disciples were being reminded of the necessity of living the new life they’d been given in Christ. Although there is not a command explicitly given in Matthew 5:13, there is certainly a command implied: Be salty! In other words, live out your identity as a disciple of Christ. 

How do we function as the salt of the earth today? Let us consider several ways. 
First, we function as salt through the words we speak. Paul wrote in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” If indeed our hearts have been transformed by the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ, our speech will reflect it. Indeed, our speech may be used to bless others (see Eph 4:29)! We speak words of kindness to our neighbors, our co-workers, our family members, and to those in community and in so doing we function as the salt of the earth.

Second, we function as salt in the way that we work. Again, Paul wrote in Colossians 3:22, “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord.” We have the tremendous opportunity to be salty in the workplace by working hard, with integrity, and with excellence for the glory of God (1 Cor 10:31). 

Third, we function as salt in the way we treat others. When we remember the enormity of our sin against a holy God and the full forgiveness that has been extended to us through the cross of Christ (Col 2:13-14; Ps 103:12), we acknowledge that any suffering we incur at the hands of others pales in comparison to the suffering we deserve for our treason against King Jesus, and we show mercy to others as a result (Rom 12:14, 17).

Finally, we function as salt by living upright, pure lives. 1 Peter 2:11-12 says, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh which wage war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation” (See also Titus 2:11-14).

If we’ve been washed by the blood of the Lamb our lives will be different. The words we speak, the way we work, the way we treat others, and the purity of our conduct bear witness that we are indeed the salt of the earth.

Blake Gerber

[1] See David Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Grand Rapids, Mich: W.B. Eerdmans, 2001), 132.

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