“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 underfoot.”
Matthew 5:13 NIV
As I meditated on this metaphor about salt losing flavor, that Jesus used in his Sermon on the Mount, I became curious – doesn’t salt last forever? Yes, it’s possible, but I discovered (Googled it) that salt exposed to certain conditions or containing additives loses flavor.
A discussion of this passage usually centers around the many uses for salt, but Jesus was warning about salt becoming worthless. So concentrating on the idea of salt becoming worthless should help better understand how dedicated disciples are the salt of the earth. The two contexts where Jesus used this metaphor are Matthew 5:11-13 and Luke 14:25-35.
In Matthew 5, Jesus precedes his statement about salt by emphasizing wholehearted devotion to him will bring heavenly blessing, even when persecution, insults, and false statements are aimed at us because of that loyalty.
In Luke 14, Jesus gives a sermon, again emphasizing that following him, requires the highest level of loyalty. In this sermon, Jesus highlights that counting the cost of following him is key to maintaining that loyalty and finishing well. He illustrates that idea with two stories. The first story is about a builder who would be unable to complete construction and risk the ridicule of others if he failed to calculate costs in advance. The second is about a king who risks forfeiture of his kingdom if he fails to intelligently plan for an upcoming battle. After telling those stories, Jesus concluded with this warning:
“In the same way, those of you who do not give up everything you have cannot be my disciples.”
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
“Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.” Luke 14:33-35 NIV
It seems clear that understanding and calculating the cost of following Jesus is the vital component to continued dedication to him in the face of all the hard circumstances that will inevitably arise as we follow him all the way through our earthly lives. Here’s a scene from John 6:66-68 which illustrates the commitment Peter had already developed as a result of counting the cost:
From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.
Did this confession mean Peter never needed a boost to retain his steadfastness? That answer is found near the end of the gospel accounts.
As we seek to build God’s kingdom on earth in our area of influence, the Holy Spirit may show us paths to better building techniques, but our persistent faithfulness to Jesus is the “salt of the earth” cornerstone of all our earthly efforts. As you listen to Find us Faithful by Steve Green, think about Jesus followers like yourselves who have been and continue to be the salt of the earth.