Salt and Light
13 “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.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV)
You are to be Salt and Light
The last time I wrote to you about being the Light of the World, and introduced you to my prayer partner, Bonny. I wrote that she often ends our prayer time petitioning the Lord to help us be Salt and Light in our world. We first explored what it means to be “Light” in the Biblical sense of the word.
Let’s now look at what it means to be the “Salt of the earth.”
Like many of you, I often read this verse through the context of my 21st century experience and knowledge. As my pastor often tells us, reading Scripture purely through this perspective can keep us from the deeper meaning and understanding of those who heard Jesus speak these words. Digging into the usage of the word salt throughout the Old and New Testaments has once again opened my eyes.
What does it mean to be the Salt of the Earth?
Salt enhances flavor. For many of us, this is the most obvious attribute of salt. We add salt to our food as we cook and at the table, before we even eat it, adding flavor. However, did you know that salt does not actually add flavor to our food? Instead, it brings out the flavor of the food itself! It actually releases the natural flavor and aroma of whatever food to which it is added.
In Colossians 4, Paul writes, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt.” What Christians say must be tempered with grace. Speaking truth might be right, but it must be flavored with wisdom and love. Knowing the importance of salt in biblical times can put this verse in a new perspective.
Translate this attribute to Matthew 5:13 – you are the salt of the earth.
As Christ followers, we are to enhance the relationships we are in with the love and grace of Christ. With our presence, we are to uplift and bring out the best in others. When we do this, we bring glory to God! We are to flavor our part of the world with love, peace, joy, kindness and all the fruit of the Spirit.
Salt is a preservative. This is another familiar attribute of salt with in our 21st century world. It has long been used as a drying and preserving agent to keep meat from spoiling so that it will last for the long haul. Who doesn’t love a good beef jerky! Or we pickle fruits and vegetables with salt, taking out the moisture, changing the flavor and shelf live, creating all sorts of delectable delights!
Translate this attribute to Matthew 5:13 – you are salt of the earth.
Friends, as Christ followers, we have the agent to bring lasting change and eternal life to others in our sphere of influence! We can be the change-agents that leads someone we know to a saving relationship with Jesus. Jesus is the ‘salt’ in our own lives. He sustains life and preserves life.
Further study revealed a deeper meaning to this attribute of salt as a preserving agent, suggesting endurance. When God makes use of this metaphor, He is urging us to be faithful despite how circumstances appear on the surface because His Word is absolutely sure. Like Himself, His Word endures forever.
Jesus is faithful in his promises to do that in the lives of His followers. How faithful are we to be life sustainers and preservers to those whom God brings into our lives?
The Covenant of Salt:
Middle Eastern perspective
The covenant of Salt was new to me in my research. A Middle Eastern saying, “There is bread and salt between us,” meant that a relationship had been confirmed by sharing a meal. Since the essence of salt is unchanging, salt symbolized enduring nature of the alliance. Salt, therefore, was symbolic of friendship and loyalty. These are qualities of good and godly relationships even now!
Old Testament Perspective
In the Old Testament salt appears in the relationship between God and Israel. First, it was a required agent at all the sacrifices, both grain and animal. As a purifying agent and preservative in the offerings, salt represented the indissoluble nature of the covenant between God and Israel.
13 Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings. Leviticus 2:13 (NIV)
The following verse refers to the covenant God made with Aaron and his descendants, promising to provide for them through the offering of sacrifices.
19 Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.” Numbers 18:19 (NIV)
And thirdly, God also ordained a Covenant of Salt with King David, as found in 2 Chronicles 13:5, “Should you not know that the LORD God of Israel gave the dominion over Israel to David forever, to him and his sons, by a covenant of salt?“ This verse is in reference to the establishment of Davidic dynasty, which lasted on earth through to the birth of Christ.
Translate this into Matthew 5:14: You are the salt of the earth.
We are truly visible, tangible signs of God’s ancient covenant of salt with his people. This eternal and ever-lasting covenant was a sign of the love and devotion God had for His chosen people. It is His promise to never leave or forsake us. He is and always has been a covenant-making God. The final sacrifice of His Son Jesus, the forgiveness of sins through this sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit are the culmination of all the covenants God made with His people. Thus, the Covenant of Salt is a forever, eternal covenant between God and those who believe.
Salt as a valuable commodity:
Salt is a ready commodity in modern times. In recent years, it has become popular to use different types of salt in food preparation and enhancing. I much admit, I fell prey to the hype and have begun using Himalayan Pink salt at times!! We do not think twice about shaking salt onto our foods at the table!
In biblical times, it was much different as it was much less accessible. People once built cities around salt mines and many of the roads of ancient times were developed because of the salt trade. Salt is an essential element to the human body. It was known for its healing properties along with everything else. I read it was even used to pay Roman soldiers in Jesus’ day.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Are you worth your salt?” It dates back to those times when salt was a highly prized commodity that took time to harvest. It was scarce, and therefore valuable. The saying “worth one’s salt” means that you are competent and worth your wages. The next time you pick up the saltshaker on your table, think about the value of salt. Are you worth your salt?
Translate this to Matthew 5:13: “You are salt of the earth.”
You have value. You are a prized child of God. You are highly esteemed and loved. So is everyone you meet. “For God so loved the World, that He gave His only begotten Son…” John 3:16. We are to live as a person valued and loved by God and let all we meet know that they too have value.
I love this! I love how alive the Word of God becomes when placed in the context and the times in which Jesus first proclaimed and spoke these well-known words. I, for one, will not take these words from my Lord to be “Salt and Light” casually.
I want to live as one who has value to the God of the Universe! I want my speech to be enduring, truth-filled and life giving. I want to build relationships of worth and faithfulness. I want to be a change agent for Christ, lifting His name and life and love and Kingship in my life. I want people to see how knowing Jesus has enhanced my life! Drawing others to Him.
Prayer: Oh, Father, do not let me lose my saltiness, but allow me to live each day as “salt of the earth.”