Matthew 5:13-16 (NIV) – 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.”
I have often wondered why Jesus said we are the “salt of the earth”. I have heard explanations and descriptions over the years, but never been completely satisfied with these teachings. So, I thought I’d try to do my own study and see where this goes. First, let me share some bits from articles I looked up.
Salt, also known as rock salt (halite), is a crystalline mineral that is composed primarily of sodium chloride (NaCl), a chemical compound belonging to the larger class of ionic salts. It is absolutely essential for animal life, but can be harmful to animals and plants in excess. Salt is one of the oldest, most ubiquitous food seasonings and salting is an important method of food preservation. The taste of salt (saltiness) is one of the basic human tastes.
“One component of salt, sodium (Na), is involved in muscle contraction including heartbeat, nerve impulses, and the digestion of body-building protein. Sodium is easily absorbed and is active in the absorption of other nutrients in the small intestine. Sodium is the major extracellular electrolyte responsible for regulating water balance, pH, and osmotic pressure. It is important in nerve conduction. Because of sodium’s importance to your body, several interacting mechanisms, including generation of hormones angiotensin and aldosterone, adjust the system in the event of consumption of insufficient amounts of salt which would threaten the body’s nerves and muscles and interference with the sodium-potassium “pump” which adjusts intra- and extra-cellular pressures. If your salt intake varies widely, these mechanisms activate to assure that your body remains healthy, maintaining a relatively constant blood pressure.
The other component of salt, chloride (Cl) is also essential to good health. It preserves acid-base balance in the body, aids potassium absorption, supplies the essence of digestive stomach acid, and enhances the ability of the blood to carry carbon dioxide from respiring tissues to the lungs.
Because salt is essential to good health, the human body is hard-wired with an innate salt appetite.”
Ehow.com explains a little of salt’s preserving qualities:
“Sometime in the early 1800s, man began to finally understand the way salt works as a preservative. This was important in places with long, hard winters with few sources of fresh food. Salt has antibacterial properties, so it inhibits the growth of bacteria which spoil food. When the food that is salted makes contact with the bacteria, the salt absorbs the moisture through the cell’s walls, which results in the death of the bacteria.
Salt as a mold and yeast preventative
Salt also is an effective deterrent to molds and yeast. In fermentation processes, salt inhibits the yeast from continuing to grow and allows the fermentation time to be regulated. Mold also must have a moist environment to grow, so the salt’s dehydrating properties nicely inhibit this as well.”
Looking at this, we see that salt is more than something to amp up the flavor of bland cooking. We cannot live without salt. It is essential for our well being and is also usable as a preservative. However, too much salt in our diet can be bad for our health. We also know how salt can corrode certain metals, while it aids in polishing other metals. And, many of us know that slugs are completely adverse to salt (you can look up why that is, if you want. Let’s just say, thank God for our skin).
The Greek word for salt, halas, according to Biblestudytools.com, is defined this way:
- salt with which food is seasoned and sacrifices are sprinkled
- those kinds of saline matter used to fertilise arable land
- salt is a symbol of lasting concord, because it protects food from putrefaction and preserves it unchanged. Accordingly, in the solemn ratification of compacts, the orientals were, and are to this day, accustomed to partake of salt together
- wisdom and grace exhibited in speech
Maybe we can see how we are the “salt of the earth”. When salt is used as a seasoning, no one sees it, but it’s presence has made a difference. When used as a preservative, it protects from harmful bacteria. As medication, it helps cleanse infection and promote healing. As a fertilizer, it encourages healthy growth. We, too, should make a difference, even though others do not see what made the difference. We should do what we can to preserve and protect. We need to be about healing and we should seek the betterment of others.
One other thing about salt…it does the changing. When you salt a food, it takes on the flavor of the salt. The salt does not take on the flavor of the food. Salt is not changed, but instead makes or affects change. When we consume salt, it remains salt. When we add it to food, it remains salt. When we dilute salt in water, it remains salt and when all the water is removed (evaporated), the salt will remain.
I also find it interesting that salt was used not only as a seasoning, but also with sacrifices. Leviticus 2:13 says, “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.”
Salt symbolized the covenant between God and Israel. This, I also find interesting. God’s covenant with Israel was about the Messiah. Jesus, the Christ (Yeshua hamashiach) came as the completion of that covenant. We, who have chosen to accept Him as Lord and Savior, having chosen to follow Him, bear His name are, therefore, the salt of the earth. We are the embodiment of God’s covenant.
Interesting note: Salt in the Hebrew, consists of 3 letters:
So it would read: The concealed truth of God through the Cross and blessing to the Grace
I appreciate the efforts of my friend (recently published author), Mike Willingham in looking that up for me.
So, there are a few details about salt. Now, about that light. There are some facts about light that we all likely know. Let’s see if I can bring up a few, here.
We need light to survive. Our bodies health depend on natural sunlight. Plant life need sunlight – I’ll spare any details about photo synthesis. Light illuminates, whether it is natural sunlight or artificial light from a bulb. Without light, we would not see any color – it is the color spectrum in the light which illuminates color. Again, let’s spare some details. Anyway, light has two main functions in life…to illuminate and to guide.
A healthy eye needs light to distinguish color, shapes and sizes. It only takes a trace of light to see something, brighter light to get better detail. Sometimes, we need light to illuminate only one object or area on which we need to focus. Speaking of focus, it is easier for an eye to focus if light is sufficient.
As for light illuminating an object or area, I am reminded of Psalm 119:105 which says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.” (NIV). Basically, if you were to carry a light (imagine perhaps a lantern or a candle), the glow would only be enough for your eyes to see a certain distance. Of course, as you step further, that light will reveal more as it travels with you. God’s word – what He speaks – lights enough for our feet to tread and as we go further, more of the path is revealed. His spoken word, His decree, His order, His command…lights our way.
As necessary and beneficial as light is, too much can be harmful. Most people know it is not good to stare at the sun. Many others know that staying out in the sun too long can be harmful and painful. Drivers know how blinding it is when driving at night and a driver in the opposite direction has his high beams on. It is also annoying when someone shines a bright light right in your face.
As light, we are to illuminate and guide. A lighthouse has a powerful light which is there to warn ships that they are close to land. Yet, that same light in a small room would be overpowering. Jesus said, “Let your light so shine…”. He never said, “Shine your light in their faces.” Every judgmental phrase, every picket line and protest of what we are against is glaring a light in the eyes of others who should see the light and not be blinded by it.
How counterproductive is that? We think that showing people light and blinding them with it is the same thing. You may as well offer a drowning man a glass of water. You would do better telling a person who is lactose intolerant that a glass of milk will help them feel better. This seems as helpful as putting an ice-pack on cold fingers to warm them up. Okay, I could really beat this one to death – this, too, I shall spare you.
I am neither a theologian nor a scientist. I simply took some comparisons of the natural examples of Kingdom principles as I see them. I believe we, the Church, can do better in terms of our testimony and our delivery. In essence, I think we have the potential to be salt without driving people’s blood pressure up and light without blinding people.