We’ve completed the Beatitudes, and now hopefully we have a more accurate understanding as to what Christian character should look like. As we move on are on to what the Salt of the earth is and does, we begin to see how one who is poor in spirit functions.
13 “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
I’m convinced the ESV leaves us a little out of the loop as to the texts meaning. The word for losing its saltiness is μωραίνω (mōrainō) could be as well understood “is defiled”. Since the context would probably be more concerned with salt as a preserving or purifying agent, if it got defiled it would lose its ability to be used as a God intended, as we will soon see. So if the Lord is using His people as ambassadors (think 2 Corinthians 5:20-21) of reconciliation, reconciling the world unto His Son for ultimate preservation and the salt is defiled, is it any good for reconciliation? Evidently not as He says “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” We see this illustrated better as salt being defiled in the parallel passage in Luke 14:35 “It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”
We’ll get back to that but Jones states it well “The business of the salt which is rubbed into that meat is to preserve it against those agencies that are tending to its putrefaction” 1 (putrefaction-decomposition of organic matter) I bet you never thought of yourselves as an agent in the world, meant to prevent this particular process of putrefaction and decay…thanks Martyn. 🙂 I think this raises a couple questions. How does the salt lose its saltiness and what exactly would that look like?
Jones makes the case that this “saltiness issue” is carried out to the least common denominator as individuals. Yes, Christ is building His Church (Matt 16:18) but ultimately this boils down to the least common denominator as individuals. Jones explains with the following analogy. “For instance, a number of people may be talking together in a rather unworthy manner. Suddenly a Christian enters into the company, and immediately his presence has an effect. He does not say a word, but people begin to modify their language. He is already acting as salt, he is already controlling the tendency to putrefaction and pollution. Just by being a Christian man, because of his life and character and general deportment, he is already controlling that evil that was manifesting itself, and he does so in every sphere and in every situation.”2
We take this to the corporate level only to bring it back to the individual. If the Church’s mission statement reads (Mark 16:15-16 and Matt 28:18-20) that we are to spread the gospel and make disciples, we have a conflict of interest if we battle the LGBTQ movement or as Jones uses “communism” as an analogy, because we lose the ability to be salt and light (as we will soon discover) to the very people that we are to spread the gospel and make disciples to. Don’t misunderstand that we are never to agree with evil, as we’ve been commanded to deal with even the evil from within (Mark 7:23), let alone the evil at large. However if we lose this saltiness corporately, and miss out on our mission statement, chances are good we’ve lost our mission statement individually as well. Let me explain on a more intimate individual level. If you have been commanded as a follower of Jesus Christ to spread the gospel and make disciples (and we have, based on Mark 16:15-16 and Matt 28:18-20), but somehow your focus has shifted from the command of our mission statement to something that seems pretty important (…ie making a living, being a good neighbor, loving your wife, raising your children well-notice I’m using all good godly attributes) but somehow we never get around to spreading the gospel or making disciples, I would agree with Jones that maybe we’ve lost our saltiness. I’m not saying that we aren’t supposed to magnify those godly attributes, we are, but that is not our mission statement. Jesus said in Matt 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The good works we are to do, as we will see next week will be used to draw all people unto Jesus for ultimate purification. Do NOT misunderstand that we take a stand against evil…but that is not our mission statement. Evil will be here till Jesus returns for us. He has already defeated evil at the cross. Our mission statement is to spread the gospel and make disciples. If we are so busy doing other good things that we never get around to what we’ve been commissioned for, we’ve lost the ability to be part of that preserving force that Jesus has called us to. He came to redeem a lost world and is using us to bring sinners to Him and He has assigned to us a sphere of influence (2Cor10:13) to reach the lost. Notice the definite article “the salt of the earth”. There is no plan b in place, we are the salt of the earth. If we’re not having that purifying effect on those around us, perhaps we’ve lost your saltiness.
To confirm our use of the word salty, Quarles adds about the opposite of salt that was not promoting life:,”it destroyed life. The ancients used corrupt salt as gravel on beaten paths where grass could not grow anyway because of the heavy traffic. The point is that salt that is too corrupt to have a purifying influence can have a destructive influence. Salt that has lost its purity has herbicidal effect. Rather than purifying the lives of others, it destroys the potential for life.” 3 So what would salt that has lost its saltiness look like? “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under peoples feet.” (5:13b) Rather than being used as a purifying agent, it has quite the opposite effect . Rather than indoctrinating people to the gospel, they are rather inoculating them from the gospel. This pseudo gospel no longer changes lives for God’s glory, it as Paul told Timothy in 2Tim 3:5 “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” Nothing changes with this pseudo gospel. The purifying power of the true gospel, confronts sinners with their sin, and offers forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross, it changes lives. The self centered gospel discounts our sin as not that big of a deal, and leaves us with a gospel that is all about us. (for more on this there is a movie out called the “American Gospel”, it reveals how in America we have said Jesus and packed our bibles but really it is still FAITH + something ie works, health, weath etc. The gospel that changes is all about Jesus…not us.)
So this begs the question: are we salt of the earth?