“You are the salt of the earth.”
When we hear this verse, we normally think of flavor. That is what we use salt for in our modern context. The original hearers, though, would have thought in terms of preserving their food. That is what they used salt for. They did not have refrigeration and salt was used to keep food from spoiling. In many parts of the world today, salt is still used to keep food from going bad. Without preserving the meat and fish with salt, they will rot and decay.
In this verse Jesus spoke to the ongoing influence of the Church and his followers in the world. We have all heard the arguments before:
“What good does the Church do?”
“What difference does the Church really make in the world?”
“Wouldn’t the world be better off without the scourge of organized religion?”
The reality is that so many churches and Christian organizations are involved in ministry and service in their communities and around the world. Often, these Christian groups are providing better services to the poor and needy than their respective governments. When the devastating earthquake hit Haiti a few years ago, it was not the United Nations that was the first on the scene, it was Christian Churches and Christian relief organizations showing up to help.
What I think that Jesus was talking about here, however, is relating to a deeper level than just service and generosity to people who are needy. Those who are followers of Christ also provide a connection to the life of God in their respective arenas. If we believe the Bible, we understand that time is rushing towards a fulfillment. Society is decaying. As the Salt of the World, Christians are slowing that decaying process down. We are providing a preservative to give others a chance to respond to God’s invitation.
You may be the only Christian in your office, classroom, or on the block where you live. As such, you have an incredible opportunity to be a preservative to the people that God has placed in your world. Instead of thinking, “Wow, I am the only Christian at my company,” maybe you could start thinking a little more strategically. “If I am the only Christian in my office, how does God want me to have an impact on the lives of those I work with?”
How are you the Salt of the World? Have you ever thought of yourself as a preservative?
The Apostle Paul also used salt as an analogy in his letter to the Colossians. “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”
Here, Paul gives great advice about how those who are Christ followers should treat and relate to those who are not Christ followers. Our conversations, our words, and our interactions are to be “full of grace” with a just a touch of salt thrown in.
Too often, we have gotten it backwards. We have offered a cup full of salt with just a touch of grace thrown in. Then we are surprised when the non-Christian does not like it. If you have ever been swimming in the ocean and gotten a mouth full of salty seawater, you know how unpleasant that can be.
Most of Paul’s ministry was around people who had little or no understanding of the Jewish Law or of the teachings of Jesus. Rather than filling his sermons with a lot of “Thou shall nots,” Paul focused on a message that emphasized God’s grace and love. He told the Corinthian Christians, “It isn’t my responsibility to judge outsiders.”
Maybe, just maybe, if we who are Christ followers could work on letting our words and interactions with non-Christians be full of grace, we might get more opportunities to share our faith. Maybe, if they knew they were not going to be judged, they might be more willing to ask us for our advice:
“I am thinking about moving in with my boyfriend. All my other friends think it is a great idea. What do you think?”
“I am really having trouble with my teenage daughter. Your kids seemed to have turned out okay. What can I do?”
“I am thinking about filing for divorce. Do you think that there is anything I can do to save my marriage?”
Because our conversation has been full of grace, when these questions come we have an opportunity to sprinkle a little salt in and share some life changing truths with them. If we build credibility with people by extending grace, they will be much more open to hearing the truth that has the power to set them free.
Annie and I are serving the Lord in the US, Africa, India, South America and beyond. We are training leaders and helping build great local churches. Would you consider joining our team? Just click here to get involved. Thanks so much!