A Theology of Salt.
“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)
I heard the most profound observation concerning salt in this passage. It was so profound I could no longer look at the rest of this passage, or of anything else that Jesus had said, in the same way. Dr. Ron Benefiel shared with a small group that salt is…Are you ready? Salt is…salty.
I find myself, very often, trying to find the deep interpretation of scriptures. This is important, but if it is not the intention of the writer, then a deep interpretation can be a false one. Salt is salty. That is the characteristic of salt. Its saltiness includes its taste, but it also includes its physical properties that we depend upon. Salt is used to melt ice, change the boiling point of water, soften water, preserve meat, and, well, to make food saltier. Salt has numerous purposes that make it an important product in our everyday lives, but what if these characteristics of salt that we depend on ceased to exist?
Imagine going to the store and buying a can of salt. You get home and sprinkle some on your eggs as you have done a thousand times before. Only this time, when you take a bite, the eggs are sweet. Or imagine you pour salt into the brine tank of a water softener but it only gets gunked up. The package says “salt,” the listed ingredients say “salt”, but the substance seems to be acting more like sugar. You call the manufacturer and they swear that they have not made a mistake and what you have is salt. What to do? You go to the extreme and have a lab test the substance. You are certain they will tell you that it’s sugar. They run tests and tell you that the substance you have brought in is composed of NaCl molecules. What you have brought in is indeed salt. It’s just not acting like salt.
Every single person in the world can agree that this substance is salt, but if that substance no longer acts like salt, then it is useless as salt. If salt is no longer salty, then no lab result is going to make your eggs taste saltier. The substance you have, the substance known as salt, is worthless as salt; perhaps it will make good dirt, so you throw it out where it will be trampled on, and you become, at the very least, skeptical about salt.
Jesus tells a people that their title means nothing if the characteristic does not match. Most of the people who heard Jesus were Jews, a people proud to be known as the people of Yahweh. Their title meant a great deal to them. Being able to prove that they were of the lineage of Abraham meant a great deal to them. Being able to prove their dedication through circumcision meant a great deal to them. But Jesus said that if salt loses its characteristic, then it is worthless.
As a Christian I worry about losing my saltiness. The Christian is supposed to be a person who is a disciple of Christ. Saying a prayer and getting baptized are a small part of being a Christian—like getting a label that says “salt”. The Christian is to be the one who emulates Christ. The characteristics of Christians should always be in accord with the characteristics of Jesus. Jesus was compassionate and caring. Jesus never condoned sin. Jesus was driven by His love for others. Jesus went to where people were, in order to serve them. Jesus obeyed the Father. Jesus was passionately offended by hypocritical worship. Jesus worshiped God regularly, and with others. Jesus brought life everywhere He went. Jesus insisted that everyone pick up their cross and follow Him. These are some of the characteristics of Jesus, and these are to be the characteristics of His followers: Christians.
The primary characteristic of salt is its saltiness, the primary characteristic of the Christian is Christ-likeness. If we cease to act like Jesus then we are useless to the world as Christians. Claiming the title, having baptismal records, and even a note from the pastor will not affect your usefulness as a Christian to the rest of the world. When people desperately need Jesus in their lives, and you show up, will they find you to be truly Christ like, or something else? One will make you a light to the world, the other will leave them cynical about the characteristics of Jesus and His Church.
Please come join us as we fix our eyes on Jesus. We meet Sundays at 9 a.m. for Sunday school and 10 a.m. for worship. Everyone is welcome!