Last week I wrote about being lights in the world. In the same passage from Matthew, Christ refers to us as being the salt of the earth. He goes on to ask how salt can be made salty again if it loses its flavor. Many will read this passage and move on without much thought, but inquisitive minds want to know-why salt? Of all the spices used in ancient times, why not use cinnamon or sage or any one of a host of other commonly used aromatic and flavorful spices- why plain old salt? So, I did some research.
Salt played an immensely important role in Biblical times. It was highly valued, highly guarded and even ferociously fought over. In Rome there were roads built and designated for the sole purpose of transporting salt from the mines or beds to the city under heavy Roman guard. These were called Salt roads. In a time before electricity or refrigeration was available, salt was used as a primary food preservative. While it definitely changed the taste of foods, it allowed them to be stored for days without spoiling. Salt was also used as a cleansing agent, or disinfectant, if you will. In Biblical times when sacrifices were offered, no sacrifice could be made that did not include salt. It was forbidden to not include salt and the sacrifice would not be honored or accepted without it. It was that important! Salt was also traded as a commodity and even used as currency, which is why Rome kept it under such heavy guard. It played a crucial role in everyday ancient times. Of all the spices used, Christ knew that salt carried more value, just as long as it always remained salty, or possessed it’s preserving benefits.
So then back to the question and the statement Jesus made-can salt become less salty or lose its flavor? The chemical compound for salt is sodium chloride. As such, it is highly stable. In other words, salt doesn’t chemically break down or become something else unless something is introduced which would change its chemical makeup. However, salt does have one nemesis-Moisture, humidity, water. In highly arid climates with lower humidity levels, salt can last for thousands of years. But once introduced to moisture, salt can be dissolved, or in essence, lose its effectiveness. It may still exist in a solid or crystal state, but lose much of its preservative qualities.
How does this apply in the lesson Christ was teaching us? If you are in tuned to current social trends, especially within many of our churches, you will see exactly what Jesus was referring to. In an effort to become more tasteful to the unchurched, or seeker friendly, the whole of the Gospel has evolved into a feel-good approach of inspirational clichés, non-judgmental mission statements and a come-as-you-are-anything-goes approach to worship. In other words, we have Watered Down the salt of Biblical truth, making it less salty and good for little more than a temporary good feeling, with no discipline, no accountability and virtually no challenge. While most of us will admit that old school fire and brimstone preachers are not our cup of tea, the fact remains that too many have attempted to alter the Gospel to make it more friendly, more pleasing and much more tolerant lest it become offensive to some or exclusionary in nature. We attempt to make scripture relative to today’s society and times as if the Bible is to be a living and evolving document subject to 21st century interpretation and application, much in the same way our Constitution can be amended. This is unacceptable and goes against the very warnings we were given in the last few verses of the Bible.
The words of Jesus himself recorded in Revelation 22:18-19 are a stark warning against the practice of altering scripture:
“And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the words of prophecy written in this book: if anyone adds anything (even a single word) to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. 19. And if anyone removes any of the words from this book of prophecy, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the Holy City that are described in this book”. Italics mine.
This is not about worship styles, cultural approaches or proper church behavior. I am all for both traditional and progressive services, and am of the opinion that God designed us all uniquely with different responses to Him. Some dance, some kneel, some dress up, some come in shorts, some like hymns and some want to rock His house-some drink, some abstain-some observe holy days, some see every day as holy-ALL GOOD AND ACCEPTABLE! No, this is about taking something intended as absolute and unchangeable, The Word, and watering it down to a point that it becomes unrecognizable and ineffective. This is about salt losing its saltiness. Just as Jesus stated that a light under a basket offers no benefits in the darkness, so does salt become useless when it no longer has the ability to protect, to preserve, to add flavor and credibility to Christianity. It is then that it becomes good for nothing but lining a trail or path to be walked on.
More than ever before in history, I believe the world is watching us. Some are looking to see if we are legit in our faith, some looking to see if we are walking what we’re talking, and others looking for real answers by witnessing what a God-life looks like. Believers should never feel like they live in a vacuum. God wants us “In the world”, a city on a hill, a small candle in an otherwise darkened room. Don’t discount your effectiveness to add seasoning and illumination by the way you live out your life. Act as true preservatives of all we know to be the Truth!