17th October 2020

The Salt of the Earth

You are the salt of the earth…
Matthew 5:13 (NLT)

I have an orange solid salt lamp; I use pretty pink Himalayan salt in our cooking, and pure white table salt on slugs that dare munch my seedlings.  ‘Salt’ will mean different things to different people, depending on if you’re a cook, a chemist or perhaps a theologian discussing covenant fidelity.  Then again, there are 50+ types of salt in existence, and not all are edible.  We can further sub-divide into sea salt and rock salt.

Evaporated sea water is the source for ‘sea salt’, whilst an equally descriptive term ‘rock salt’ comes from rocks and is also known as halite.  First century Israel had access to both.  The Dead Sea, (Joshua 15:5) was a source of evaporated salt and could be viewed from the rock salt mass of Mount Sodom (Jebel Usdum); and Nibshan, the City of  salt could be found ‘in the wilderness’ (Joshua 15:62).

The type of salt, sea or rock, would have determined whether it was used for flavouring, preserving, fertilizing or fires.  I doubt ancient Israel used salt to de-ice roads back then in their warmer climate, but they did use it to stoke fires and to salt sacrifices!

So which ‘salt’ was Jesus referring to in the above reference?  More to the point, what was he talking about?  Today when someone refers to a person as being the ‘salt of the earth’, the implication is they are an honest and trustworthy person.  Was Christ talking about the same thing?  And what did he mean when He talked about salt being able to lose its flavour?

When Jesus said these words, he was talking to his disciples, i.e. people who were committed Christians, followers of Christ.  He wasn’t giving them a lesson in chemistry, rather he was pointing to how they should behave in society and the world.  He was using ‘salt’ and a little later, ‘light’ in the context of being active, not passive, Christians. If we read the next verse, 14, “Here’s another way to put it:  You’re here to be light…” (MSG) We’re not talking about literal salt, or literal light.  More modern translations use language such as ‘keep open house’, ‘be generous with your lives’.  Once again, active Christianity.

Can ‘salt’ lose its flavour?  The answer is no, not if it is sodium chloride, (NaCl).  So scholars debate and disagree whether Christ was talking literally or figuratively.  Salts contain 0.2-10% chemical impurities, so if the soluble sodium chloride is removed, you’re left with the impurities, which are thrown away!  But maybe Christ was just being sarcastic! Either way, Jesus was telling us to have a beneficial effect on those around us, a light in the darkness, helping to enhance, not dictate.

Prayer
Lord God, help us to be the salt of the earth—active Christians in your service.
Amen
 

Study by Irene Tibbenham

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About the Author:
Irene Tibbenham is a Deaconess and serves on the Pastoral Council in the Norwich Congregation of Grace Communion International.

Local Congregation:
GCI Norwich
New Hope Christian Centre
Martineau Lane
NORWICH
NR1 2HX

Meeting Time:
Saturday 10:30am

Local Congregational Contact:
Tony Goudie
Phone: 01508 498165
Mobile: 07931 580409
Email:  tony_goudie@wcg.org.uk

norwich@gracecom.church

 

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