I thought I was going to be able to tackle a whole chunk of verses in this post or at least more than one verse. I was all set to combine the salt of the earth and the light of the world and maybe even the fulfillment of the law into one magnificently inspiring post. (Hey. I can dream.) I’m not sure why I thought I could do that since it took me 7 posts just to get through the beatitudes. Nevertheless, I was prepared to hit all those familiar points and move on. Then that question that wouldn’t go away hit.
I began exploring this verse the way everyone else does. I thought about what salt does and how important it was in the past. Salt’s main functions are food preservation and flavor enhancement. So, as the salt of the earth, Christians keep the world from rotting and make it more palatable.”Yeah, us!” I thought. That’s when it started. I realized I was only addressing 7 words out of approximately 35 in the verse. I wasn’t thinking about 4/5 of the verse.
Ignoring 80% of the verse just isn’t acceptable so I read the whole thing I don’t know how many times. I found that Jesus spent most of the verse talking about how worthless salt is when it loses its saltiness. As I started pondering how that affected the metaphor, I was slapped in the face by a seemingly mundane question. How does salt lose it’s saltiness anyway? At first I assumed it assumed it must be a matter of salt being contaminated with some kind of impurity. Try as I might to work with that, I just wasn’t satisfied with guessing. So I applied the default research strategy of our time. … Yep. I googled it.
It turns out that the impurity concept does have some validity, especially in light of the salt-gathering processes of ancient times. Salt back then was definitely not the same substance we put in our salt shakers. In fact, the salt did not need to be contaminated at all since it was already mixed with other things. The more profound revelation I discovered was the fact that, in these salt mixtures, the sodium chloride can “disappear” when exposed to moisture, leaving behind a substance that still looks like salt but doesn’t actually contain any. This greatly expands the meaning of the verse for me.
Jesus isn’t just metaphorically describing Christians. He’s issuing a warning. There are many people who wear the label of Christians that don’t have the faith to actually be Christians. They may look good, maybe say and do the “right” things but they possess no power to truly affect the world. They are worthless when it comes to furthering the gospel. So this verse is basically saying that it doesn’t matter if you outwardly look correct if you aren’t made of the right substance. If you aren’t full of faith and true belief in Christ, then you are worthless to Him.