“You are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13)
One would not think there would be so much to learn about salt, but apparently there is. In fact, it seems that one can write a whole history of the world just by tracing what has happened with salt. People have done so. (If you have the time check out Salt: A World History by Mark Kulansky)
Indeed, wars have been won and lost on the basis of who has control of the stores of salt.
Governments have found salt to be a lucrative means of raising money — by controlling and taxing it.
At different points in history, salt has been the currency of commerce. The word ‘salary’ has its Latin roots in the sense that the worker was paid in order to be able to ‘buy salt.’
Evidently, until a hundred years ago, salt was scarce. And in the time of Jesus and long before that and ever since, salt was necessary for the preservation of food. Having it or not having it was the difference between life and death.
Besides flavoring our food, I am told salt has thousands of other purposes. It softens my water, melts the ice on my sidewalk, and when gargled with can soothe a sore throat, to name just a few.
Nowadays, salt is cheap. Except when you can’t get your hands on it. In the days before Christmas we were hit with ice and cold and salt was not to be found. We were grateful to have extra folks on hand to walk people to their cars on Christmas Eve — to keep the faithful from slipping and falling.
Yesterday I heard that the town I call home will only be salting main thoroughfares and dangerous intersections. It’s been an especially tough winter and we are running out of salt. Oh, there is an abundance of salt — only what is still out there is stuck on barges which are frozen in the Mississippi River.
Indeed, the metaphor Jesus offers now means more to me knowing all of this in this place and time where much of the time the availability of salt is never in question. This would not have been the case when Jesus preached so long ago. And so it matters that Jesus says to those who were listening then and to those who listen still: “You are the salt of the earth.”
In other words, you are of great value. And just think of all the varied ways the gift you are and the gifts you offer impact the world. And so far as I can tell, in spite of Jesus’ assertion today, salt never actually loses its taste. Salt is only ‘useless’ when it is not used.
And it all starts with being reminded that this is who and what you are and this is what you are for.
Jesus says these words to you today. You are of great value. Who and what you are and all that you give to the world makes the world a better, richer place. All you have to do is get out of the shaker, out of the bag, off the barge and be and do what you were made to be and do.
“You are the salt of the earth.” Believe it.
- Perhaps it is so that to be called ‘salt of the earth’ meant more in the time of Jesus than it does today. Can you think of another metaphor which would speak better today?
- Why do you think Jesus calls us ‘salt?’ How is this a good metaphor for us? What examples can you think of where we are ‘salt?’
- What difference does it make to you to be called something of such value?