In Matthew 5:13 we read, “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.” Here Jesus is saying that if we really belong to Him, we will be like salt.
Two thousand years ago, salt was highly valued. The Greeks felt that there was something in salt that was almost divine. The Romans sometimes paid their soldiers with salt. If a soldier did not carry out his duty, or if he was slothful, they said that he was not worth his salt!
Salt was valued for several reasons in those days. One reason was because it was a seasoning agent. It brought flavor to food. One of the things Jesus could mean here is that disciples of His bring a flavor to life. They bring a zest to living. That ought to be true for those of us who follow Jesus. In a world of turmoil, we should be the ones bringing peace. In a world where there seems to be an overriding sense of futility, we should be bringing hope and joy.
Salt was also considered as an emblem of purity. Jesus was saying we are in the midst of this culture to display purity of motive and of life. In a culture that has made fine art out of lying, we ought to be known for our honesty and integrity. When we give our word, people should be able to count on it. In a world when sexual looseness is proclaimed, in us there ought to be a purity of life.
Salt was also known as something that created thirst. If Jesus is using this analogy, then He is saying that by our presence we ought to make people thirsty for God.
Jesus may well have had all these qualities in mind. Certainly followers of Christ should be adding flavor to life, should be living pure and holy lives and should, by our very presence in the community, be making people thirsty for God.
There is something else however, that He may have been thinking of. Another quality of salt is that salt preserves. Salt was used as a preservative for fish and meat. It kept it from rotting.
The Bible looks at society as a kind of rotting carcass that has in it the germs of its own disintegration. In Romans 1:18, Paul says. “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men.” He is not talking about future judgment. The whole point of the first three chapters of Romans is the evidence of God’s judgment against unrighteousness can be seen in the society. People, ignorant of God, turn to idolatry. Idolaters turn to immorality. Sin indulged in leads to more sin and more sin leads to more sin, until finally the culture disintegrates and is destroyed.
Christians, if they are living a life before God, keep their culture from disintegrating as rapidly as it might. When the church is what is what it ought to be, it is able to keep the rot from spreading rapidly. The safety of a nation resides in the character of its people. Again and again throughout history, civilizations have fallen like a rotted tree. The outward push has come from an enemy, but it has fallen because of inward rot.
Jesus says that as His followers, we are significant because we are like salt in a rotting society. But salt must come in contact with the meat. Whenever we take the salt and pack it within the four walls of the church and think we are serving God, we are missing the basic lesson that Jesus is giving us that salt must come in contact with the meat. If we are out of touch, we really don’t make a difference in the society in which we live.
As salt, we must also keep our distinctiveness. “If the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” What Jesus is saying here is that if the salt loses its distinctiveness, it is worthless. That is true of citizens of the kingdom who are called to be salt in society. If we lost that distinctiveness, then we become like the society around us and we make no difference. We become part of the rot instead of part of the process of preserving it.
Jesus is saying that by being a part of society and living according to the grace of God and having that displayed in our lives, we preserve society from evil.