What do you think of when you think of salt? For most of us, salt is nothing more than a routine commodity. For some of us, we think of the Morton salt girl pouring salt all over the sidewalk in a blinding thunderstorm.
Then there is a coarse salt that is used in the making of ice cream, but of all the salt in the world only 3% is used in the home.
There are over 14,000 catalogued uses of salt; no basic commodity is put to as many uses as salt. Salt is used by meat packers, chemical companies, food processors and soap manufacturers. It is used in the production of glass, as a water softener by commercial laundries; it is used in smelting and refining of metals.
Farmers use it to preserve hay that has been harvested wet; ranchers provide salt licks for their cattle. Salt is used for the construction of secondary roads, as a binder to hold other roadbed materials together. Salt is used to de-ice roads. Salt is also used extensively in the production of sodium, chlorine, hydrochloric acid.
Today we obtain salt from three main sources 1) mines, 2) wells, 3) salt water in the oceans and certain lakes. Of the world’s total salt production 60% comes from mines. Salt is often found in veins, much like silver and gold and other metals. 25% of salt is found in wells and 15% comes from the ocean and salt lakes.
The oceans alone hold enough salt to build a wall around the equator 180 miles high and one mile thick. The same amount of salt could form a layer one and one half miles deep over the continental United States.
But of all the salt in the world, it is mentioned only three times in the Bible. It was an important part of the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament. It was so important that God commanded the priests to season all meat offering with salt: “And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt” (Lev. 2:13).
Even in pagan worship, salt was considered a necessary ingredient in sacrifices. Wars have been fought over salt. Roman historians recorded Germanic tribes fighting over possession of “sacred salt springs.”
Salt played a major role in the defeat of the armies of Napoleon during their retreat from Moscow. Why, because the soldier’s wounds would not heal, because their bodies lacked salt, and thousands died.
While Alexander the Great was conquering the world, huge salt mines were discovered and worked in northern India.
In the days of the Roman Empire, Roman soldiers built the Via Salaria, the salt road. This was one of the greatest military roads of history and stretched from the salt works at Ostia to the capital city of Rome. Ostia was located on the Mediterranean coast of southwest Rome.
Salt was once so valuable that the Caesars partially paid their soldiers with bags of salt. The payment was called salarium argentums, the silver salt, because it took the place of money. Even our English word salary comes from the Latin word salarium which means salt.
Throughout history, salt has been in the limelight, it has been a symbol of wealth, used as money, fought over and considered a very important part of the sacrificial ceremonies of many religions.
Salt was especially important in Christ’s time. The people were more aware of its value. Salt was simply not readily available as it is now. There were lots of times when many had to do without it.
Now when we read “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is henceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matt. 5:13).
Since salt was as rare in Christ’s time this statement was much more meaningful to the disciples than for us today. But Jesus Christ compared His disciples to salt. Why salt instead of some other seasoning?
Now to understand, we need to look as some of the specific aspects of salt. Christ did not use salt as some idle analogy. Christ chose it because of its unique properties.
Question - Have you ever known of pure salt going bad? What about old salt that is in a salt mine. Did you ever stop and think that these salt deposits are thousands of years old and yet they are the source of most of the salt we use. Even refined salt can be stored for long periods of time and still maintain it saltiness. Now it may become lumpy and hard, but it is still salt and it remains salty.
Salt does not spoil. This is one of the reasons it was used in the burnt offering of Israel. Salt was a symbol of God’s lasting covenant with His people. Salt is the opposite of leaven, the type of sin.
It is impossible to destroy the savor, the saltiness of salt unless it reacts chemically with another compound. Natural salt can be subjected to severe tests and still remain enduring. We can dissolve salt in water, it disappears, no longer is it in a solid state, does the salt endure, just taste the water.
Salt can also be subjected to extreme temperature; in fact salt will melt at the red-hot temperature of 800 degrees and still maintain its unique chemical composition.
Because of these enduring qualities, Jesus drew the comparison of salt to Christians. “If the salt lost its savor or enduring qualities (which is never does) it would be good for nothing.”
Now in the same way, if we Christians lose our salt-like qualities, then we are good for nothing. “Salt is good; but if the salt have lost his (or its) savor, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet for the dunghill; but men cast it out, he that hath ears to hear let him hear” (Luke 14:34-35).
Many times salt occurs in nature mixed with materials such as dirt, rocks and other minerals. When this occurs it is subject to the force of water, the water will go into solution and be leached out, but the salt doesn’t lose it savor. It is just transported elsewhere and is no longer part of the original material.
And this was what Christ was explaining “that you and I are to be like salt” (Matt. 5:13). Now when Christ refers to losing its savor, He is explaining to his disciples then and to us today, not to lose the qualities of salt, not to let some outside force cause the aggregate material to lose the salt that is part of it.
If you and I are true followers of Christ, we are to be like salt, we remain steadfast and true, we are to endure, in the way of life Christ has given us. Notice the reward Christ promised to give us if we endure: “And he that overcomes, and keeps my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations” (Rev. 2:26).
One thing that Jesus Christ realized about His followers was that they would have to live in a world of sin. A world that did not acknowledge the true God.
We all know that sin is the disobedience to the laws of God (I John 3:4). Christ knew that this world is a spoiling influence on His people. But that does not matter, Jesus Christ has taught us and we have been given the truth, and given instruction in God’s way. We are to be like salt, not to the spoiling influence of the world around us.
Just like salt can be subjected to many tests without changing its chemical composition, so should we as Christians be able to undergo the trials and tests that are a necessary part of our spiritual lives. Is this not what we are told “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into varioustrials or temptations” (Ja. 1:2).
Now another reason Jesus Christ likened His disciples to salt is because of its physical quality of purity. Because of its purity, salt is used as a disinfectant, germs can’t live in it. Christians are the light of the world, that makes us pure, and true Christians are the only pure people on this earth. Why does that make us pure? Because, true Christians are alone in obeying God’s law and following His way of life.
Jesus Christ wants us to know the need to be spiritually disinfected from this world. Sin, in a sense, is like a culture of spiritual germs and bacteria.
We, who are followers of Christ are to fight against sin just as disinfectant fights germs and prevents them from multiplying. Christ was explaining to His disciples then, and to us today, the need to clearly understand the pure quality of salt they were to inoculate on our lives.
Today, we don’t have any problems of obtaining salt, but it is still a precious commodity. We just take it for granted; treat it as common-place. But where would we be without it. Industry would hurt, and how bland our food would be without it.
How many times have you eaten out, but there was something wrong, it just didn’t have much flavor, but when we put salt on it, it makes a world of difference. For this reason alone, salt is very precious. It was even more precious in the time of Christ; it just wasn’t always available for use on their food.
Do we really understand, how Christ was explaining to His disciples and to us today, how precious God’s called out ones really are? “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints” (Ps. 116:15).
You and I are just as precious to Him today. God’s people are like points of light sprinkled over the earth. Just like the salt you put on your food, you can’t see it after it dissolves into the juices of the food, but what a difference it makes in the flavor of the food.
By the same token, there is a small, precious group of called out ones to do God’s Work, to fulfill the commission given by His Son. “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come” (Matt. 24:14).
Now think about this - Throughout history salt has played an important role as a preservative. During the 1500’s and 1600’s when men were sailing on the high seas, ships were able to put into port every few days to replenish their supplies.
And because these ships were stocked with barrels of beef soaked in brine, this saltwater solution kept the meat from spoiling. Salt was also used in tanning hides, and in brine solutions in pickling as it is today. Salt’s preservative nature makes it a useful and necessary product even in our modern society.
Salt is a preservative of life also. Wild animals will travel long distances and risk danger to lick salt from natural deposits. Salt is necessary for the health and well-being of every person on earth. If it were not for the percentage of salt in our blood and body cells, human beings would die, just as Napoleon’s wounded men died during their retreat, when their bodies lacked salt.
Now understand this and never forget it, Jesus Christ’s true servants are means by which God will preserve this entire earth. Christ commissioned His followers to preach the Gospel to the entire world as a witness, to go to all nations carrying the truth of His way of life; it is the way of life that will bring real freedom to the entire world.
“And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). “Sanctify them through thy truth, thy word is truth” (John 17:17). Each of us has been called to a very important job; we are being called to help preserve the entire world saving it from utter destruction. It is a profound opportunity, an awesome responsibility. The question is; will we accept the challenge?
Only if we are willing to sacrifice to change, to repent of our old ways, only if we are willing to truly become THE SALT OF THE EARTH.