In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt loses it taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot” (Matthew 5:13). Such a metaphor raises all kinds of questions for me. Salt seems so ordinary and mundane, something we take for granted. Yes, it is necessary for making a fine meal, but it is the exotic spices and herbs that get the attention. Salt brings out other flavors, but who wants a dish with too much salt?
Years ago, on April 1st, my older sister pulled a practical joke on my siblings by mixing a large quantity of salt into the sugar bowl. At breakfast, as they spooned sugar on to their cereal, she watched us carefully, saying nothing. When they took their first bite and then spit it all out, she burst out laughing. But my mother was not too pleased with the wasted cereal. My sister had to clean up the mess from too much salt.
When Jesus spoke, salt was used in Jerusalem for temple sacrifices, “You shall not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God; with all your offerings you shall offer salt” (Leviticus 2:13). Could Jesus be inferring that our lives are to be an offering to God, a gift for God to use? Could we be part of God’s covenant to renew and restore the earth? Do I enhance God’s flavor in the world?
And just how does salt lose its saltiness? Perhaps it means that the salt is polluted with impurities and stray matter. In Exodus 30:35 God instructs the Israelites to make a prayer incense that includes salt, “seasoned with salt, pure and holy.” I know that my own life at times becomes polluted in ways not pleasing to God. How will I know when I have lost my saltiness? Does the community have a role in helping me stay salty?
Jesus’ last phrase about salt being trample under foot makes me smile. In Minnesota there is plenty of salt being spread on roads, bridges, and sidewalks for us to trample upon. Jesus did not concern his audience with the ice-melting properties of salt, but it is a critical part of our culture. Road salt covers my car after yesterday’s snowstorm, yet I am thankful for its ability to clear road ice.
What thoughts comes to your mind when Jesus declares, “You are the salt of the earth“?