The following exchange encouraged me to think longer on the meaning of Matthew 5:13:
I love Elizabeth’s summation! I understand the concept of salt functioning as a preservative and flavor-enhancer. The main question I had as I read this verse was what causes the salt to lose its saltiness?
Salt never ceases to be salt. Pure salt maintains its potency for hundreds of years; salt does not have an expiration date. So, how can it lose its potency? According to a foodie website, it becomes less potent when it is mixed with other things, when it ceases to be pure salt.
I was reminded of a little experiment the kids performed early in their chemistry studies last year. They mixed a whole bunch of salt in a glass of water. Hannah stirred and stirred until it seemed that the salt had fully dissolved. The next step was to pour the salt water onto a pan and leave it outside for a little while until the water evaporated. After all the water completely evaporated, the only thing left on the pan was salt. However, it wasn’t as salty as it was before we mixed it with the water. It resembled salt (though in a slightly different condition rather than the fine crystals we started with) and tasted like salt, but it wasn’t the same. I wasn’t going to use it, and there wasn’t anything I could add to it to make it as salty as it was before our experiment.
Likewise, we Christians lose our saltiness when we bind ourselves to sin, when we sacrifice our purity and potency on the altar of pleasure and worldly pursuits.
The second question I had was in what way are we trampled under people’s feet when we lose our saltiness?
I suppose the good news is that we are not trampled under God’s feet. Though worthless salt, we are still salt. But we are trampled under people’s feet when they see us caught in sin. As a result, they call us hypocrites and mock our message. Our lives, our testimonies, are rendered ineffective in their eyes because of our sin.
Ask me how I know.
SO, here’s our warning: Do not sin.
But we’re sinners! Yes, we are. We are going to sin because that’s what sinners do. Yes, that’s true. Does that mean we’re all doomed to be trampled underfoot eventually? I say no. Knowing (and admitting) that we are sinners is a part of what makes us salty in this world. The gospel makes us salty. Applying the gospel to our lives makes us salty. Applying the truth of God’s word to our lives makes us salty. We can maintain our saltiness by fighting sin with faith and repentance in the power of the Spirit. Don’t give in! Gospel words are salty words.
Ask me how I know. (And, in truth, I am writing this to myself, weak as I am. Plus, those aren’t the only ways we are salt for this earth; merely what came immediately to mind.)
Two more items to share:
1. Becky was inspired to write a moving poem from her meditation on Matthew 5:14-16, Light Cannot be Hidden.
2. Our pastor Keith Pugh preached the following sermon back in the fall of 2011, and it is an excellent exposition of Matthew 5:13. Watch/listen and be encouraged.