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Please Pass the Salt!

Please Pass the Salt!

Salt is something that we take for granted in our day, but in the ancient world it was an important commodity.  Scripture reports that salt was used in various contexts and as various symbols.  One passage that has always troubled me is Matthew 5:13, where our Lord uses salt as a symbol.

“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.

What has always confused me is the scientific paradox that is presented here.  Salt is a very stable substance.  In fact, in order for it to be chemically modified, it is usually diluted with water and electrified (impossible in the first century).  How then can Salt become “Saltless” (literal translation of Mark 9:50)?  None of us want to be a worthless, saltless Christian!

This passage still convicts me, but it is no longer because of fear.  Why?  True salt remains salty!  The other examples in this passage show the absurdity of fearing saltless Christianity.  #1 A hill-top city cannot be hidden.  #2 A light (lamp) cannot be covered.  It would extinguish, or burn through the covering.  In the same way, salt cannot become saltless!  So why does our Lord use this example?

The answer lies in the historical difference of salt.  In the first century, salt came from natural sources, such as sea-salt and salt mines.  Pure salt was gathered from the mines, but was always contaminated with other minerals.  Today, various qualities of salt are used for different things (salting roads, or salting a filet mignon).  It was the same in scripture.  Salt only became Saltless in one of two ways:

#1 It was never true salt.   Dishonest merchants could sell contaminated salt with a sample of pure salt on top.  As the pure salt was used up, the contaminated salt would be exposed and become saltless.  Have you ever met a church member who was salty on the surface, but their non-christian character was eventually exposed?

#2  It was contaminated by an outside influence.  Salt is less effective when it has become contaminated.  I once witnessed a 5 year old at Wendy’s licking the top of the salt shaker on each table.  Needless to say, I found those salt-shakers less effective (and used individual salt-packets every time since).  It is the same with the Christian life.  We never become less Christian, we simply allow outside contaminants to ruin our effectiveness.

Here is the point:  We don’t have to fear a change in our salty Christian nature, only contamination and fraud.  Our challenge is to remain salty by avoiding contamination from this world. 

One more salty fact to consider: First century farmers often added a little salt to the manure pile, speeding the composting process to make even the most fowl refuse into something profitable. Be encouraged, no matter how bad your surroundings are, you can remain pure and effective.

As Great Commission Christians, we need to allow our lost neighbors to “Pass the Salt” every time they walk by us.

Looking for some opportunities to be Salt and Light?  Find opportunities on www.idlewildserves.org.