KEY LESSONS FROM THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT

YOU ARE THE SALT OF THE EARTH (PART II)

“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 underfoot.” – Matthew 5:13

The title of this article – “Salt of the Earth” assumes that as Christians, we are the Salt of the Earth. Thus, it is a call upon us to be true to our identity as SALT.

Salt is the most common mineral known to man and also by far the most important. It is used for seasoning, preservation, cleaning, cleansing, and a host of other purposes. In fact, it has been estimated that salt has about 14,000 uses!

This substance is so popular because it is known by all classes of people. It does not matter whether old or young, rich or poor, black, white, brown, red or yellow, everyone knows of at least one use for salt. Not only that, everyone needs salt for one purpose or the other, and actually uses it. Little wonder that the Lord Jesus Christ declared us to be “the salt of the earth.”

Beyond Its Looks
Salt is generally white in colour and a form of loose, abrasive substance. It can also be in crystals of different sizes, as in the common form of sea salt. It looks and feels like certain kinds of sugar and other white substances, but its most distinctive feature lies in its taste.

It is a friend of professional chefs and amateur cooks, the assistant of trained physicians and quack practitioners. World-class laboratories cannot neglect its inclusion in their stock, and peasant families can’t do without it in their huts.

This powerful substance called salt is needed on a daily basis. It must also be used in the right measure, as too much or too little of it is bad for the user. It can heal and it can kill, depending on how it is used.

In every corner of the globe, salt remains a preferred choice of every home. When not in use, it is visible. When in use, it dissolves and becomes invisible. What thereafter gives it away is the taste of the host substance that absorbs it. If in the right amount, that other substance becomes savoury and protected from early putrefaction.

The Earth Today
Knowing that His listeners were all familiar with these properties of salt, Jesus Christ looked at them and pronounced what floats to us Christians in this age with increased intensity: “you are the salt of the earth.”

All around us, the world shows signs of bitterness and decay. Whether it is in conflicts, or starvation, or natural disasters, or sickness, or death, there is very little that is savoury or hopeful anywhere these days.

Like a soup in need of seasoning or a soup gone bad, the earth groans for salt. It longs to have it poured out in appropriate measure to season, to cleanse, to heal, and to preserve.

Christians are the Salt of the Earth
Job asked the poignant question: “Is tasteless food eaten without salt?”- Job 6:6.  Of course not! Many of us will rather sprinkle salt on already-cooked food served before us, than eat it in a tasteless state.

We know that there is a better way, and we simply will not settle for what is before us, when we know what can be with the addition of salt. So also has the world seen how Christians can be a difference to the growing decay.

Either through reading or observing the lives of Christ and genuine Christians, the world knows, and has a right to expect savour and healing from those who profess Christ. The world awaits the salt that is those called by Christ.

When Jesus declared us the “salt of the earth,” it is so that the world can be helped by our saltiness. By the declaration, He called our attention to that which we are; not what we can be, or ought to be; but what we should be on earth.

It does not therefore matter where we are—salt is needed everywhere regardless of time, space, race, or class. The rich, the poor, the literate, illiterate, old, young, all need salt in measured proportions, hence our influence is needed to season and preserve. Whether at home, at work, church, anywhere, we only need to look around us to see how easily things slide into decay and prevent this, or preserve whatever is left of the decay. Our presence is meant to enrich and cleanse.

One critical part of Christ’s declaration on the mount is that all who are called by His name, that is, all Christians are automatically the salt of the earth.

Are all Christians Salty?
The fact that Christ declared us to be “the salt of the earth” does not mean that all Christians automatically function as salt. As mentioned earlier, it is not colour or looks that makes salt useful, it is the taste. Salt is not salt if it is bland; it must have the distinct saltiness for it to qualify as salt. Christ’s next words make this clear.

Prefaced by a “but,” He asks an important question: “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?”  This question doubles as a caution, that salt can indeed lose its saltiness, while still retaining the look and feel of salt. In other words, Christians can also lose the distinctive taste of Christianity, while still professing, sounding, looking, and believing themselves to be Christians.

History testifies to this unfortunate reality, and we are daily assaulted by it. In fact, Jesus Himself proved that He’s very familiar with the problem of Christians losing their saltiness when He disclosed later that “Not every one who says to me, Lord, will  enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”- Matthew 7:21 (NIV).

The burden of Christ in His observation: “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again?” is profound. If a Christian is made salt and declared as salt, what use then has a tasteless, soiled, and decaying world for a Christian who exists merely in name and has lost the force of his power, or his saltiness?

But what is the Christian’s saltiness?  And how can it be lost?

The World Needs
Right from the start, man has proved a disappointment to the heavenly hosts. The Bible details the regression of human beings from the perfect image of God to what we have become today. Unfortunately, the worst is not over yet. The apostle Paul warns us that things will be even worse than they are now.

Here is a Brief Timeline
Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth. – Genesis 6: 11,12

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one. – Psalm 14: 3

Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil. – Isaiah 1: 5,6

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous? Behold, God puts no trust in his holy ones, and the heavens are not pure in his sight; how much less one who is abominable and corrupt, a man who drinks injustice like water! – John 15:14-16

But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self- control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. – 2 Timothy 3:1-5

For this reason, Christ’s words in our key text should be given careful consideration: “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 underfoot.”

Note here that Jesus did not say “when” but “if?” That is, if the godliness that gives life to Christianity has been lost, how can it be restored? Is there any magic that can be performed? A special miracle from heaven? Jesus Himself gave the answer, that it is no longer useful, but should be thrown away.

In conclusion, the essence of Matthew 5:13 is both a declaration and a caution to Christians. It is the power of God that has made us of salt. God expects, and the world waits to be blessed by our saltiness. This saltiness will not be taken away from us, but we can lose it ourselves. We can be Christians in name alone, but ineffective to provide any better alternative to the world’s decay. In this case, we will be judged severely, as Jesus Himself stated.

Heaven’s mandate is that we are salt of the earth. For this reason, Luke cautioned: “Salt is good; but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is  fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” – Luke 14:34-35.

And the apostle Peter offers us divine protection in the following time-tested counsel:

“His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” –  2 Peter 1:3-8 (NIV)

Again, in the words of Luke: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”

To Ponder: An anonymous quote stated very succinctly that “salt is what makes things taste bad when it isn’t in them.” Don’t we all know that! Why not then go out and help make the world taste good today?

MORE ANON!
Stay blessed!
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