“You ARE the Salt of the Earth”
- “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Mt. 5:13)
In the other two events where Jesus used “salt” in His earthly ministry, He clarified His meaning here. In Luke’s account, He warned the “great multitudes who went with Him” that they must “hate” their family members and their own life, “bare a cross” and “come after Me,” or they “cannot be My disciple.” He then gave three parables. In the first, Jesus spoke of building a tower and demanded each disciple count this “cross” into the cost of discipleship before they begin, or they will not be able to become a true disciple and will end up being mocked for their efforts. In the second, He spoke of two kings about to go into battle and one deciding since he can’t win, he must seek the “conditions of peace.” These are Jesus’ conditions of peace!
- “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" (Luke 14:25-35)
What obvious conclusions can we draw from this account? First, salt and genuine discipleship are linked. If we have not assessed and counted the cost, we are not His disciples and our salt has no savor. There is a direct tie between the cost to build that tower and the cost of discipleship. When we are not paying that cost, our “salt has lost its savor.” Second, there is a direct link between the king who can’t win the battle and each disciple. In the war for our soul, we lost the battle long ago and are dead in our sins. (Eph. 2:1-10). All we can do is seek His conditions of peace. When we have met those conditions, we will have “forsaken all that we have” and our salt will be fully seasoned. The more compromises we make, the less saltiness we have.
In Mark’s account, the context is completely different, yet the theme of the cost of discipleship continues. Jesus is sitting in a house, has called the twelve apostles, and is speaking only to them. After warning them against selfish pride, He revealed the full truth of the cost of being His disciple. If our hand is causing us to stumble because we are not paying the full price of discipleship, it is better to cut it off. No excuses! There will be no sympathy! There is only one alternative if we don’t cut it off and Jesus forcefully revealed it: “having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire.” These are the realities we face! This is a serious battle and if we are to avoid going into hell and the unquenchable fire, we must be prepared to even lose that hand. He repeated this same scenario with a foot and an eye and drew the exact same conclusion.
These are also parables. If it is better to cut off a hand or a foot or to pluck out an eye than to keep those body parts and be cast into hell, it is also certainly essential that anything that leads us into any sinful act must be cut off. Jesus is once again speaking of manifesting our priorities by making the necessary sacrifices. Sinful priorities must be removed no matter how integral a part of our life and they must be replaced with spiritual priorities. If I have to lose my family, if I have to lose my job, or as Paul If I have to “suffer the loss of all things that I might gain Christ,” this is normal and expected of every disciple. Only when we have exhibited this attitude does Jesus conclude with the use of salt: “Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves,” (Mk. 9:33-50).
The conclusion is exactly the same. When a sinful desire is more important to me than being a true disciple of Jesus, I lose my saltiness. Whether internal and only I can see it or external for all to see, that is the truth. Because Jesus never compromised on anything, He had the greatest saltiness of anyone who has ever lived. As we follow Him and make the decisions to sacrifice our hopes and dreams, our friends and families, our personal desire to sin or fall short of God’s glory, the intensity of our salt becomes stronger and stronger.
What about the context in the Sermon on the Mount? Since Jesus just finished speaking of the persecution we will suffer as a result of our uncompromising stand as His disciples, the thought is identical. When I compromise on the truth in order to avoid persecution, my salt has lost its savor. Yet since the real reason we are disciples is to reflect Jesus, the only way for the salt to savor is for us to stand in an uncompromising manner.
Lot was not a disciple of Jesus, but his salt had fully savored in Sodom and Gomorrah. Although everyone else perished, it was not because of Lot’s compromise: God “delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds) — 9 then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,” (2Pet. 2:7-9).
While the men of Sodom lived wicked lives, Lot stood firm. Day by day, he refused to compromise. This was the first step in letting salt savor and not allowing it to become tasteless. But there was an equally important second step. The wicked must feel it! Lot’s convictions while witnessing their ungodly conduct created strong feelings of frustration. By verbalizing those frustrations his salt was savoring. Though spoken in gentleness, the savor of this salt was too strong for them!
- “So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, 7 and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! 9 And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door.” (Gen. 19:7-9)
Conclusion. This is the template for all of us. If we want our salt to savor, we must first feel the torment the lives of the wicked create. If we can witness evil without such feelings, our salt is already losing its flavor (Rom. 1:32). Yet equally important, we must never be afraid to speak out when current events are discussed. Paul commanded that we seek every opportunity to allow our speech to be seasoned with this salt.
- “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time. Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Col. 4:5-6).
- “Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. 15 For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things?” (2Cor. 2:14-17).