“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
This verse has always puzzled me. I’m going to try to put some pieces together for all of us.
First, we know Jesus is speaking to His true followers here, as opposed to the religious leaders who are presumed by the people to be the righteous ones. Jesus says that His followers are different. They are poor in spirit; they hunger and thirst for righteousness because they know they don’t have any of their own; they mourn over their own sin; they are meek and humble (the opposite of proud); they are peacemakers; when they are persecuted, they love their enemies, they turn the other cheek and go the extra mile. Jesus started preaching at a time when righteousness had been usurped by the Pharisees, and He was putting it back into the hands of simple folk, because righteousness cannot be achieved, it can only be received, and the ones who receive it are those who ask for it, not those who presume they have it or have earned it. This much we know.
Then Jesus tells his followers that they are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. It’s important to note here that He doesn’t tell them to go out and try and be these things; He tells them they are salt and light. Neither of these are things can be manufactured. I believe these are new covenant realities that will be activated when Jesus has completed His work on earth and left behind His Holy Spirit to indwell the lives of the first believers, followed by us. With the Spirit living inside us, we bring spice to life, and we bring the light of Christ into the darkness wherever we go. But like everything in the new covenant, it’s all from God and nothing from us. We have nothing to do with being salt and light except to show up and trust His Spirit to show up too.
If that’s the case, then what is salt that has lost its ability to make things salty? I believe that is our lives when we are not relying on the Spirit of God in us. It’s us in charge of our own religion, like the Pharisees, not us yielded and trusting in the Holy Spirit. The best we can come up with when we are in charge of this is a sort of bland “unsaltiness” that is useless. It’s like the branch that’s been cut off from the vine and is worthless for anything but to be thrown in the fire.
As a marketing executive, Marti knows all about branding, and that the most important role of a brand is to create trust. One of the illustrations of this she likes to use is Morton salt with the picture of the little girl in the yellow dress with the umbrella and a can of salt under her arm accidentally left open so the salt is pouring out behind her. “When it rains, it pours,” is the recognizable slogan on the front. The picture tells use it will keep on pouring. The point is: the brand is all about trust.
Why is Morton salt one of the ten most recognized symbols in America? Because since 1848 this brand has been trusted to deliver a pure product. Salt is salt. There’s no recognizable difference between one brand of salt over another — there is no cut-rate salt or designer salt — and yet people continue to choose the girl with the umbrella over anything else, because their mothers used it and their grandmothers used it and it is a trusted brand. This brand has left pictures in our minds of Grandma reaching for the salt over the kitchen stove. If we are the salt of the earth, Morton is the salt of the kitchen. We’ll pay even more if we have to, to get the girl with the umbrella, because we have an emotional attachment with the brand.
If we allow for it and believe, the Holy Spirit will become the trusted brand in our lives for the people around us. And as the Spirit has free access to our lives, we will be the salt of the earth. We will bring a seasoning into every aspect of life — a sort of gritty reality that can only come from God.
If Morton salt ever put out a batch of white granules that looked like salt but had absolutely no flavor, it would be all over for them. They would have broken their trust. You and I as followers of Christ, when we rely totally on the Spirit of God at all times, will consistently manifest a life people can trust. When everything comes from God and nothing from us, we maintain a saltiness that seasons all of life. When anything comes from us, it will be bland and tasteless and we become useless for the kingdom of God.
Tomorrow: The Salty Dog