“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.Matthew 5:13
Jesus compares the people of God to the salt of the earth. We have sayings in our culture that involve salt that can confuse the meaning of this passage. When someone says that a person is a “salt of the earth” kind of person, they mean that the person is a good, simple, straightforward, and trustworthy person. This isn’t what Jesus was saying.
Likewise, sometimes people will describe someone as “salty.” By this they mean the person is colorful in their language and often tough, aggressive, and/or defensive. Again, this is not what Jesus is describing in this passage of scripture.
Salt in Jesus’s day was often expensive and was pulled from the Dead Sea region. Getting salt this way often caused it to be contaminated with other elements and impurities. If it was too full of impurities, it would lose its saltiness.
Salt was used for flavoring and preserving foods in ancient times. Yet, because of its value, one had to be careful how much was used. Salt was required as part of the grain offering for the Jewish people because of its value (Leviticus 2:13). It was seen as a sacrifice to use salt. It was even called “the salt of the covenant of your God.”
Salt was a major element of meals where a covenant was being made between individuals or families. When describing His relationship to the priests of Israel, God said:
“Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”Numbers 18:19
So, salt not only seasoned food and preserved food, but it was a sign of a covenant.
With all of this in mind, Jesus said that His followers are the salt of the earth. They are to season the earth. As they spread out, they flavor every area of culture that they are in. When they gather together, it is for the sake of preservation–preserving the faith, hope, and love that are in Christ. And just as the rainbow was a covenant sign to Noah that the Lord would never flood the earth again, followers of Jesus are meant to be a covenant sign to the earth of God’s love and faithfulness. We are to be a living, breathing sign of the covenant–a covenant of salt–between God and humanity.
Yet, if we have impurities that contaminate our life, we lose our saltiness. We lose our purpose for existing. Sin has a way of making us forget that the reason we are on the earth is to bring the Kingdom of God “on earth as it is in heaven.” Impurities can make us lose our purpose in the midst of distractions and diversions. When we lose our saltiness, we lose our ability to do good in the world for the Kingdom.