I did a lot of baking over the holidays. Mostly cookies, some candy and a fruitcake (a really delicious recipe handed down through 3 generations!) As I was working my way through each recipe, I realized they all contained salt. Some had baking powder, some baking soda, but always salt. It reminded me of the “salt and light” metaphors from the Sermon on the Mount. Since I couldn’t get it out of my mind, I did a little digging into the spiritual meaning of salt.
Uses of Salt
Salt acts as a flavor enhancer in recipes. Our food would taste bland without it. In bread, salt controls the fermentation of the yeast which gives the bread a better texture. In pastry, salt encourages browning and also gives a better texture. Salt is a natural preservative, so our cookies and baked goods last longer (yay!) Some of these same qualities of salt come through in the spiritual meaning of salt as well.
Salt in the Bible
Salt had many uses in Biblical times. The Israelites were instructed in the Old Testament to season all their grain offerings with salt. A “salt covenant” is mentioned in regard to God making strong, enduring promises to the Israelites. Elisha treated a bad water supply in Jericho with salt. Newborn babies were rubbed with salt for its antiseptic properties. Salt was used as a preservative by rubbing it into meat and fish. It was mixed with cattle feed, bartered with, and used in small doses as fertilizer! Whew! The things you learn when doing a simple word search….
The Salt of the Earth
When Jesus was teaching his disciples on a hillside (the Sermon on the Mount), he said “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. ” Matthew 5:13 (NIV)
Let’s take each sentence separately and see what Jesus meant for us to learn about the spiritual meaning of salt.
•“You are the salt of the earth”. Notice he didn’t say “some of you might be” the salt of the earth. His disciples are the salt. As His disciples then, we are to be the salt of the earth.
Just as salt gives food a richer, more pleasant flavor, we too should enhance those around us. Col 4:6 says our conversations should be “seasoned with salt”. When I compared versions of that verse, they describe it as a conversation that is “gracious and attractive” and “pleasant and interesting.”
Our words should reflect what God has taught us in our lives. Are they savory (honorable? pleasing?) Or are they hurtful? Angry? Critical?
I once heard that when sitting around a table, or with a group of people, we should speak as if God is sharing that same place with us. That would sure remind me of how God wants my speech to sound.
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Jesus and Salt
•The next statement Jesus makes is “but if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” You can’t make salt “saltier” if it has lost its flavor.
We are here to enhance the lives of others by living and speaking like Jesus. If we lose our “divine flavor” so to speak, then it is as if we have lost our “saltiness.” Our words are meaningless and useless. The NLT version says “it will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” That’s a pretty strong reminder.
In Biblical times, salt was not pure. Contaminated salt could become corrosive and even poisonous. Have you ever been to a humid climate and noticed rice in the salt shakers? It’s an attempt to keep the salt flowing by absorbing the moisture that clumps the salt and makes it unusable.
What contamination in our lives (being of the world) keeps us from being salt in the world?
Jesus instructed us to live out the spiritual meaning of salt of the earth. He’s counting on us to enhance the lives of others with our words and actions. We are to be a preservative in a world full of moral decay. Our spiritual salt should be pure and free-flowing.
He’s asking us to live a holy life for Him and to point others His way. In John 17, Jesus is praying to His Father for His disciples. It’s a beautiful prayer. In verse 18 He says “As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world.” We are sent out to be a blessing and influence on the world.
Have you ever noticed that after eating a salty meal, you get thirsty? If we are especially “salty”- might we make others thirsty for Jesus? I hope so!
Mark 9:50- “You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves, and live in peace with each other.”
All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
Photo Credit: AnnMarie Anderson