(Editor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the late Dr. Neihof's last book which you can order HERE)
“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” (Matthew 5:13).
Anyone who has tried a sodium-free diet can resonate with the request, “More salt, please!”
Each of us has heard the remark: "Isn't he just the salt of the earth?" William Barclay said that Jesus provided us with an expression that is “The greatest compliment that can be paid to a man”[i]
Salt symbolizes purity. Jesus tells us that we are to be the salt of the earth. We, as Christians, must lift the tone and standard of our civilization through Christ’s holiness being lived out in us. As we elevate the standard, civilization follows by elevating its standard. As we lower the standard, civilization follows by doing the same.
Each of us has friends around whom we are challenged to be better than we are. We also have friends that drag us down to their level of conversation and behavior. What kind of influence are you? Is it easier for others to be good when they are around you? If we, as the Church, want to see the world live up to a higher standard, we must be willing to be salt—purity.
Salt symbolizes preservation. Salt has been used to preserve food for millennia. In Jesus’ time, the Galilean fish were salt- cured to prepare them for shipment throughout their region.
Dennis Kinlaw told a story about salt-curing ham in his childhood. He came home from school one day and a gutted pig was lying on the back porch. His task – rub salt into that meat and store it for the later privilege of eating some bacon at some future date.
One day we were having some special company for supper, so mother took me out to the smokehouse and pointed to the largest ham hanging from the rafters. I pulled it down, opened the sack, and laid the beautiful ham out for my mother to cut. The big butcher knife penetrated the best portion of that ham, and I waited with anticipation to see the meat. Then I had two simultaneous and shocking perceptions. One was of the frown on my mother’s face and the other was of the most offensive odor I have ever smelled. The ham was full of maggots. My mother looked at me with dismay and said, “Son, not enough salt.” [ii]
“Not enough salt.” Spiritually, this disaster is spelled out across our culture in the problems of same-sex marriage, adultery, fornication, drunkenness, addictions, transgender invasions of bathrooms, children dying in the streets, and law enforcement officers being slaughtered.
Sin putrefies. Salt preserves.
Salt brings flavor. Even animals will flock to a salt lick. Deer hunters will place an agricultural salt block in the woods or meadow to attract their prey. Salt pleases the palate. It tastes good.
Christ-followers are that flavor in a broken, hurting, sin-cursed world. We offer hope, zest, life, and purpose to an otherwise chaotic and meaningless existence. We extend passion for living to lost, hopeless people. E. Stanley Jones puts it this way: “The Christian is to be salt not merely to save life from moral putrefaction. He is to save life from losing its taste and becoming insipid.”[iii]
Salt seasons. However, Jesus says that salt can lose its ability to season. Once lost, its savor cannot be regained. What an alarming warning! Tasteless, worthless, trod underfoot. Judged as an outcast.
Someone has lamented, “The world is so churchy, and the church is so worldly, that you can’t tell the difference!” Jesus says that believers who have “lost their savor” have played the fool, becoming stupid, tasteless, and insipid, carelessly discarding their treasure of purity of heart and life. The warning is against becoming so exposed to our surroundings, so corrupted by other influences, so decayed and decrepit in our faith that we just fit into our surroundings.
We lose any sense of remarkability. Bland. Insipid. Savorless. We become ordinary, despairing, hopeless, complaining, critical people. We gossip, lie, fornicate, steal, cheat, deceive, manipulate, coerce, and live in drunken inebriation; and we call ourselves Christian. No flavor. Or we may simply dwindle in our passion, our zeal, our zest for life in Christ, until we are neutered into harmlessness, defanged and declawed until no longer dangerous, by a world system of tolerance which seeks to normalize us into submission to its conventions.
Rebecca Manley Pippert wrote a book on evangelism titled Out of the Saltshaker and Into the World. Certainly, the title summarizes our challenge.
More salt, please.
[i] William Barclay, The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 2 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press) 114.
[ii] Kinlaw, This Day with the Master: 365 Daily Meditations, 273.
[iii] E. Stanley Jones, The Christ of the Mount, (Abingdon: 1931), p. 88).