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TEXT: Matt. 5:13, “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 by men.
There are very few things one could say about someone, that are more negative
than, “He isn’t worth his salt!” On the other hand, you can’t pay a person a higher
compliment than to say, “He is the salt of the earth!” Even in our broader culture,
the meaning of these two sayings is well known.
The Beatitudes, which precede this verse, speak of: poverty of spirit; endurance of
sorrow; yieldedness to God’s direction; hunger and thirst for righteousness; mercy;
purity of heart; peacemaking; and enduring persecution in the service of
righteousness. Then Jesus said, “You are salt.” Why did Jesus use the word salt?
What did his audience understand Him to say?
Salt was an important life necessity in cultures of the Bible. In the tremendous heat
of that region, not having salt could be a life or death issue, which made salt an
extremely valuable commodity. So for them it was much more significant when they
would say, “please pass the salt.”
Barclay suggests that salt was connected in people’s minds with three special
I. Salt Was Connected with Purity.
Its glistening whiteness makes the connection easy. Add to that the fact that it was
a necessity of life, and one of the earliest offerings to the gods, because it came
from the purest of all things the sun and the sea. A conclusion Jesus’ listeners drew
was that if they were to be the salt of the earth, they were going to have to be
examples of purity.
A soap advertisement depicted a little fellow looking intently at his shadow that fell
across his pathway. The slogan underneath the picture read: "That's the only thing I
can't wash out!" This clever bit of advertising, reminds us of the indelible shadow of
influence our example casts on others. Wrong attitudes and actions can engrave an
impression on their minds that is impossible to erase. But we can also leave a
lasting effect for good. Our loving spirit, vibrant faith, and purity of life should never
be diluted by inconsistency.
Jesus had purity in mind when He said “You are the salt of the earth.”
II. Salt Was the Most Common Preservative.
They didn’t have refrigerators or vacuum packing in those days. Salt preserved
perishable food by drawing the water out, melting, and then re-entering the food as
brine that kept the food from spoiling.
If we are to be a preservative, we must influence our surroundings. There are
certain people in whose company it is easy to be good; and that there are others in
whose company it is standards are relaxed.
The second quality Jesus was conveying was that our very presence in any social
situation should be an encouragement to all those around us to do the right thing.
III. Salt Flavors Food.

One of the most pleasant things about salt is that it brings out food’s flavor. Food
without salt is tasteless and boring. The Christian should be to life what salt is to
food; we should be living examples of how flavorful life can be. Too often people feel
that being a Christian takes the flavor out of life.
Oliver Wendell Holmes once said, “I might have entered the ministry if certain
clergymen I knew had not looked and acted so much like undertakers.”
Christianity needs to rediscover the radiance and joy of the Christian faith. In a
depressed world, the Christian should be one who remains full of life’s joy. There
should be a sheer sparkle about our lives.
But Barclay missed a fourth, and in my mind, the most significant salt connection of
IV. Salt was Connected with God’s Covenant — “A Covenant of Salt”.
The Greeks called salt divine. The Romans said, “there is nothing more useful than
sun and salt.” In the Middle East, once two people share salt and bread, they are
bound together by fidelity.
We see this covenant idea in the Torah in Numbers 18:19, “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 regular share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt
before the LORD for both you and your offspring.” Salt was to be a constant
reminder to them of God’s covenant with them.
Now we are moving closer to why Jesus used the metaphor of salt in the context of
the Beatitudes. His Jewish listeners understood this metaphor. He was saying you
represent the New Covenant. You are the salt which, when strewn into society will
purify it, preserve it, and bring joy where there is sorrow.
In the time of the kings we also see the “Covenant of Salt.” Jeroboam, King of the
Northern kingdom, saw an opportunity to rule all twelve tribes. So he marshaled an
army of 800,000 against the 400,000 men of King Abijah, Solomon’s grandson.
Their armies stood facing each other.
Abijah called out to Jeroboam in II Chron. 13:5, “Don’t you know that the LORD, the
God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever
by a covenant of salt? Abijah was invoking the “covenant of salt” as a permanent
covenant with David. It was Abijah’s claim to legitimacy. However, while he was
speaking, Jeroboam sent half of his army to Abijah’s rear, and attacked Abijah on
two fronts. However, Jeroboam’s troops were routed, and suffered 500,000
casualties. God’s faithfulness to Judah was based on the “covenant of salt.”
Jesus told His disciples to, “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each
other.” Jesus was not only aware of the idea, He used it as well. Having salt in
ourselves, means to seal mutual loyalty to each other.
There is our answer. As the people of God’s New Covenant, we are to spread
ourselves into our society and remind those people in our sphere of influence that
God’s goodness brings purity, preservation, and joy. “How do we do that?”
We must deliberately insert ourselves into our society where we can have an
impact. If we don’t, we are not doing our job. This task includes both being and
doing. Someone defined theology as being “what you are when talking stops and

action begins.”
Another property of salt is that it melts; it loses its solid state and becomes a liquid.
It loses its form, in order to find its true purpose. Being salt is risky business. Jesus
said, Luke 9:24: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses
his life for me will save it.” He never said that being His disciple would not cost us
something. But if we are willing to give up ourselves in His service, we will find our
true purpose.
Some say, “There are so few of us, and the dominant culture is so huge, how will
we ever make a difference?” Let me ask, “How much salt does it take to flavor a pot
of soup?” We don’t need to be very much to make an impact. Don’t look at our
tactical disadvantage. We have the everlasting covenant of salt. Paul said it this
way, “If God be for us, who can be against us?”