THE SALT OF THE EARTH
BY NELL STEVENSON
Have you ever considered what Jesus really meant when He
said to his disciples, "You are the salt of the earth",
(Mat.5:I3). Since he offers no explanation and they asked no
questions, we can assume that the meaning was clear. This message
is directed not only to these Israelite disciples of the tribe of
Benjamin but also to all those who have followed, including us.
For the most part it has been taken for granted that we all
know what is meant by "the salt of the earth"; you know, get
involved in all the various aspects of society and make your
influence felt to make the world a better place. This has almost
become accepted as Christian doctrine. Certainly it sounds very
scriptural. But is it?
Not too long ago I wrote an article about the world; not as
our planet home but as an orderly spiritual arrangement which
constitutes society. It is this world system that we are to
avoid. "Love not the world" is Christ's explicit command. "I have
chosen you out of the world" (Jn.15:18). Did we forget that Satan
is the god of the present world system?
How then can we justify the doctrine that encourages us to
mingle in with "the world" and get involved in social or
Now "the earth" is a totally different entity from the
world. "The earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof"
(1 Cor.10:26). This leaves no doubt that the ruler of the earth
and all that is in it is God. He has reminded us "My kingdom is
not of this world" and only He can usher in His kingdom at the
right time. We must then ask the question, "Does Christ expect us
to become part of this anti-Christ world system in order to help
Him bring His righteous kingdom to earth?"
Is it not true that when Christians go into the corrupt
world system of politics, economics, science or law as salt, to
flavour it for the Lord, they end up losing their saltiness bit
by bit? They must inevitably compromise their standards, take
bribes or fudge the truth so as not to lose their position with
the group. Integrity once eroded can never be retrieved. "If the
salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is
no longer good for anything" (Matt.5:13)
In our fervent ambition to spread the ideals of our faith we
have failed to learn an important lesson. History has proven time
and again that when we try to bring the church into the world,
the opposite eventually happens - the world comes into the
church. Is this not the reason that the gospel has been watered
down? To take away any offence that may be felt by using words
like sin, repent, abomination? To make it more palatable to the
world or society we mean to (salt) influence? Is this not why the
standards of the people of God are now mingled with the standards
of the world? It seems that in order to retain our saltiness or
savour, we must keep ourselves separate from the world.
What exactly are the characteristics of salt? When used as a
seasoning it brings out and improves the flavor of food; it
preserves fish or meat. In all cases there is co-operation that
results in improvement of the item in question. But remember also
that the salt must be applied early while the food item is fresh
and unspoiled. Only then can it prevent the growth of bacteria.
How does this apply to us? How can we, "the salt of the
earth", retain our savour and manifest it at the same time?
The Bible does not leave us without answers as to the purpose of
this God given saltiness. Mark 9:50 tells us "Have salt in
yourselves and be at peace with each other." The influence of
salt here is a blending effect that brings out the best in
everyone and results in peaceful coexistence within the family of
God. This could be quite impressive to those who do not know
Jesus Christ. Certainly this is one thing Christians must strive
to achieve. But this cannot be done of us. We must work in
cooperation with Christ because it is only in close relationship
with Him that our salty savour can be maintained. If we partake
"of the world" and get too much of its influence in our lives we
will eventually have less of Christ. Our saline quality will be
adulterated or watered down and cause weaknesses to appear in our
If salt is meant to improve or maintain an already good
quality, does it not seem reasonable that our saltiness is to be
reserved as a preservative for the people of God, our own
Israelite family, the called out ones. Did Almighty God create
Adam with the salt properties from the earth so that he and all
his Israelite progeny would be able to use it as needed? He
created Adam from the earth and the Hebrew word "adamah" means
earthy man, man of the earth or the ground. Is there a link here
that we should consider? Christ didn't say "you have salt" or
"you need salt". He said very definitely "You are the salt of the
earth". There is no substitute.
The importance of salt is also emphasized in the Old
Testament book of Leviticus, which speaks of a "covenant of salt"
between God and the Israelites. "Do not leave the salt of the
covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all
your offerings." (Lev.2:13) In the New Testament we offer
ourselves as a living sacrifice. Is this offering acceptable
without its salt? Salt is also a purifying agent. Is this a means
of keeping God's people pure and separate for Himself?
Salt has a special significance with God's people throughout
the ages. From Adam through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob God's
Israelite people are called to be different. Salt is integrity;
it is honesty; it is love for one another; it is justice and
righteous anger. Whatever we do, it must be done with grace and
kindness and with goal intention to bring about a beneficial
result as salt always does - after all, that is salt's
"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned
with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone"
It is in building each other up in the faith and encouraging
each other and worshipping together as a Christian community that
we can be "the salt of the earth" in a lost world. Is this not
the witness that is pleasing to God and that will exalt Him in
all the earth?
(Thanks Alex Robertson from Barrat Ministries, England who
brought this subiect to my attention)
Entered on this Website August 2007