Pass the Salt – Part 1
August 8, 2019
Picture this situation. You’re out to breakfast with friends and the waitress brings your eggs. You take a bite and frown as your eyes drift across the table looking for a small container with holes in the top. Maybe the container is round or square or shaped like a little duck – but whatever, it’s out of reach. Being an avid Bible scholar, Job’s desperate plea immediately pops into your mind. “Can that which is unsavory be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” As the conversation intensifies, you realize your eggs are not only tasteless, they’re getting cold. So, you catch someone’s eye and interrupt saying, “Excuse me. Uh, excuse me please… but would you please pass the salt?”
We have all experienced the blessings of salt – on our eggs, our french fries, and in our chicken soup. Salt has come to the rescue all our lives – saving the bland, the tasteless or the just plain inedible. We usually think of it as seasoning, but that’s not all it does.
Salt of the Earth
In Matthew 5:13 Jesus told His disciples, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” In those few words, Jesus tells us something about the function of His Church and the responsibility of those individuals who make it up.
As disciples we’re the salt of the earth. We won’t become salt, but according to Jesus it’s the Christian state of being. When we became Christians, God had more in mind for us than just getting us saved. He wanted us to influence others – the whole earth – towards Him. He didn’t say we were the salt of our church or our Sunday School. We’re the salt of the earth – nobody salts their salt! To understand what it means to be salt, we need to know what salt is like, where it comes from, and what it does.
Why did God call us salt? When He created smells, He gave us about 14,000 different ones. But when He created tastes, He only made four: bitter, sweet, sour and salty. All flavors come from these four tastes. God didn’t tell us we were the bitter, the sweet, or the sour of the earth. He called us salt on purpose. It wasn’t an arbitrary choice. That means we need to pay close attention to the attributes and characteristics of salt.
Unlike diamonds or precious metals which are buried underground, salt is a very common substance. Tons of salt can be found in places like the Dead Sea and the Great Salt Lake. We get salt when saltwater evaporates. In some places of the world, bulldozers heap up mountains of salt – more than anyone could use at once. When we say pass the salt, we care more about what it does, than what it’s made of. We just know that our eggs need help. But if we were to be exact, we’d say, “Pass the sodium chloride please!”
Common table salt is made up of two chemical elements that are very reactive and dangerous – sodium and chlorine. Sodium is a silvery white metal the consistency of hard cheese. If you drop a small chunk in water, the reaction creates hydrogen gas which is highly explosive. Chlorine is a greenish gas with a choking smell. Enter a roomful and you’ll be dead in seconds. So, in salt, two dangerous opposites unite to make something good. When they combine, they even get a new name. God shows us His love by linking us to Him. Talk about opposites! By the way, salt crystals are shaped in perfect cubes. I won’t speculate about why God named us after little squares – but He’s got an interesting sense of humor!
Now this is where the church comes in. Each church is like a container of salt. The containers are different – small, large, fancy, or plain – but each is full of different amounts of salt. I have a large jar of salt stored in my pantry, but there’s a saltshaker on my table for everyday use.
Now bear with me while I ask a simple question: How do I salt my eggs? Do I move the saltshaker closer to them? Should I sit the saltshaker on top of them? Obviously, I need to shake some salt onto my eggs because salt only works by direct contact. This is important. God called us salt because He wants us to be in direct contact with things that need salting.
A church container without holes is not a saltshaker – it’s a storage jar. Perhaps we need to punch more holes in the tops of our churches and let Jesus shake us loose. Maybe this is part of the shaking God is allowing us to experience. He knows if we settle in and clump together, we’ll be useless. It’s easy to get comfortable in our own little “Christian Club” and forget about being in direct contact with the world we’re called to reach.
I want to clarify something here. It’s important for every Christian to have a relationship with his local church and with his pastor. We all need structures of accountability. Our local church is where we’re nurtured, challenged, taught, corrected, and encouraged. The church is where we grow and find fellowship. But “going to church” is a means to an end – not an end in itself. Our vision must be much bigger. Our church should be our launching pad for winning the world for Jesus. It should be our home base – not our retirement village! Until the sheep, and the shepherds, understand this, we won’t be able to rise to the occasion of God’s call for this generation.
Salt Must Be Broken
When a clump of salt blocks the holes of your saltshaker, you break it up so it can be shaken out and used. We can’t be used in rock form either. Often God lets us go through a breaking process so we can be used – a few grains at a time. Jesus was broken for us and we remember His brokenness when we take Communion. Wheat must be broken before bread can be made, and we must be broken before we can minister to a broken world. If we aren’t broken, we’re probably creating a log jam in God’s will somewhere. But God in His faithfulness wants us to flow freely as the salt of the earth.
Getting broken is never fun. Sometimes in the process we feel like we’re being crushed. But here’s an encouraging word. If you grind salt down to powder and put it under a microscope it will still be shaped in little square crystals – no matter how fine the powder gets. So even when we’re broken, we can be assured we won’t lose our uniqueness or the distinctive mark of Jesus. In fact, the smaller we get, the bigger He can be!
The Salt Balance
The salt balance in our bodies is delicate. If we have too much our body holds extra fluid resulting in swelling. This puts stress on every organ, especially the heart because it has to pump the extra fluid. This may cause heart problems resulting in the need for a “salt free” diet – which is not totally salt free because without enough salt, our body won’t retain enough water. Then our blood pressure drops, we go into shock, and you guessed it, we die. So too little is as bad as too much. We can’t live without salt, but a perfect balance is needed.
As the salt of the earth, we must be in the right place, at the right time, with the right amount. We all know too much salt ruins a good meal. Has the lid of your saltshaker ever fallen off leaving a mountain of salt in your soup? It’s the end of your soup unless you’re cooking for 500! Then you may need to add more. We need the right amount of salt to suit the occasion – a pinch for personal ministry, a cup for bigger projects. It’s not a value judgment, but rather discerning just how much impact is needed to adequately salt the situation.
It only takes one person to share the Lord with someone or counsel a fellow struggler. If 20 people all tried at once it would be overwhelming – even damaging. But for a big march to City Hall you’d want as many salty friends as possible. Just being salt or thinking salty thoughts won’t season anything. In big projects as well as small, we need to make direct contact!
What Does Salt Do?
SEASONS: Salt enhances what’s good about our food and makes something acceptable that might not have been otherwise. As Christians, we’re especially gifted with the privilege of being able to bring out the best in people and things. What a blessing to look for things that glorify the Lord – and affirm them in a way that encourages them to grow. If we’re salty, the way we live and the things we say should make others thirsty for the reality of God they see in our lives.
Salt is the only common compound that dissolves easily in both hot and cold water. Jesus equipped us to minister to people who are hot or cold for God. And Jesus sets the example. One night He was reclining at the dinner table with a wide range of people – tax gatherers known for malpractice and extortion, sinners, and His disciples. The Pharisees questioned His ministry techniques, but He said “It is not those who are healthy who need a physician, but those who are sick… I desire compassion, and not sacrifice, for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matt. 9:12,13) Jesus loved the lost and the found – but He didn’t get the two confused.
HEALS: When I was a kid I had very bony knees and they were always skinned. This often resulted in blood poisoning. Since I grew up at the beach, the best thing I could do was go swimming. The saltwater drew out the poison, cleansed the wound, and helped it heal. Some of you gargle with saltwater when your throat is sore or sit in a hot bath sprinkled with Epsom salts for aches and pains. There’s something very soothing about salty water.
On the other hand, salt can sting. When we get sick and go to the doctor, pain is often part of the healing process. In order to be healed, a sin-sick person must experience the sting of truth. Someone once said, “The truth will set you free… but first it will make you miserable!” I’m sure we can all testify to the pain of realizing our own sins. Sometimes we feel worse before we feel better. But better we will be, as we walk in the reality of who we are, and who God is. Only then can we be healed.
Salt can also revive those who’ve fainted from their stressful journey in life. We need to pass some smelling salts under their nose and bring them back to consciousness! God wants us to wake up those lost in sin and revive His wounded warriors. Not by pouring salt in their open wounds, but by speaking the truth in a way that brings healing and hope.
PURIFIES: Salt is a purifying agent. God told Elisha to take a jar of salt to a poisoned spring of water and throw some in. Then Elisha said, “Thus says the Lord, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.”‘ (2 Kings 2:21) When God used salt to purify the waters of Jericho it was a miracle – just like when He uses us.
Just as Elisha didn’t throw his jar into the poisoned waters, we obviously can’t throw buildings at the world’s problems. Like Elisha, we must sprinkle out some salt. We have buildings we call “the church” that may be beautiful, but they’re only containers for what’s really valuable. We all know it’s not the buildings, but the believer who is the temple of the Holy Spirit. Beautiful churches are fine, but it’s what’s inside that counts.
God could have told Elisha to walk around town throwing salt down everyone’s well, but He sent him to the root of the problem – the poisoned spring. God wants to send us to the root of many problems -and use us to purify the poisoned areas of society. These “poisoned springs” need to be purified so there won’t be “death or unfruitfulness any longer.”
PRESERVES: Before refrigeration, salt was used as a preservative. It was rubbed into meat to keep it from spoiling – or being corrupted with bacteria. Our Christian influence works in a similar way by restraining the corruption of the world – which if left unchecked, multiplies as quickly as bacteria on a hunk of meat.
When Jesus called us “the salt of the earth” He made a strong judgment about the state of society – and a lofty claim about what His disciples can do about it. You don’t salt something that’s alive. You salt something that’s dead to keep it from rotting. Jesus is saying that society, without His influence, is a carcass that’s rotting away and disintegrating. We’ll quickly say amen to that, but what about this: as His disciples we’re to be rubbed into that rotting mass to season it, delay decomposition, and save it from falling to pieces under its own wickedness. My kids would say that sounds yukky. Sadly, so would most of us.
May I suggest that the reason we have so many problems in critical areas of society is because Christians have abandoned them and lost direct contact. We’ve retreated in fear of being “infected” instead of obeying God and doing our part to restrain the corruption. When God calls us anywhere, we must operate with integrity, purity, honesty, and fairness. We’re salt not only because we’re bearers of truth, but because of the godly influence of our conduct and character.
We should conduct ourselves in a way that makes evil ashamed to show itself before us. Every person making right choices helps swing public opinion towards what is right – and every person who lowers God’s standard in his own life, helps lower it in his community. Let’s be uncompromising examples – helping preserve our area of influence with godly principles. “When the righteous become great the people rejoice, but when a wicked man rules, people groan.” (Prov. 29:2)