Jesus opens the sermon on the mount with the beatitudes of the kingdom; He goes into what is called the similitudes. The beatitudes teach us the type of character a Christian is to have. The similitudes show us what effect Christian character is supposed to have.
The first of these similitudes is that of salt. Jesus says in Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
The question is, how are Christians to be like salt? How is a Christian to be salty? I will suggest it is not by acting the way the world thinks when they use the term salty (that is, angry or resentful, especially in response to a defeat or disappointment.). No, Christians are not to be salty in a negative way but positive. There are at least four positive aspects of salt that we want to examine and make spiritual application from this morning to help us understand how we are to be the salt of the earth.
Salt Is Distinct
The first thing salt does has to do with the nature or character of salt. Salt is one of the most distinct tasting spices in the world. It is a modern necessity in cooking. Often if a dish taste like something is missing, a good guess is that it needs more salt. Christians, likewise, are to be distinct (recognizably different from something else of a similar type.)
Consider what God has told us through Peter in 1 Peter 2:9-10:
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Christians have been redeemed from the world of corruption and sin and made into a set apart, distinct, and holy people for God’s own possession. We, in our speech and conduct, reflect that fact.
Another quality of salt is that it stings if it gets into an open wound. This stinging quality does not mean that Christians are supposed to be going around hurting people, being ugly, or obnoxious. It does mean that the presence of Christians in a community is often a stinging reminder to the world, the ungodly, that there is a right and a wrong. That there is a God who will judge the living and the dead, the righteous and the unrighteous one day.
Paul tells us in Romans 1:18-19 that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them.” It is often the presence of Biblical Christianity that will make others uncomfortable or outright hostile. Not because of anything the Christian is doing (or hopefully not). But instead, the presence of that Christian is a shining light on the deeds of darkness in that person’s life (John 3:20).
Christians are supposed to expose the deeds of darkness (Ephesians 5:11). That can be done by us being shinning lights (Mathew 5:15-16) or by talking with others about our mutual need for Jesus. But, in all of this, we are to be good representatives of Christ, bringing honor, not shame, to His name. Paul tells us how we can do this. It is by “speaking the truth in love” and by “grow[ing] up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ” (Ephesians 4:15).
Another quality of salt that Christians are supposed to have is that salt is a preservative. Christians should be a preserving agent in the communities that they live in. Take, for example, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham pleaded with God to spare the cities if God could find righteous persons within the city. See what the text says in Genesis 18:31-33:
31 And he said, “Now behold, I have ventured to speak to the Lord; suppose twenty are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the twenty.”
32 Then he said, “Oh may the Lord not be angry, and I shall speak only this once; suppose ten are found there?” And He said, “I will not destroy it on account of the ten.”
33 As soon as He had finished speaking to Abraham the Lord departed, and Abraham returned to his place.
Christians can have incredible preserving power where they live if they are distinct and salty as they should be. If you don’t think just being a good Christian makes a difference think for a moment of how Sodom and Gamoran’s story could have ended if they had only ten people who were righteous within them.
Salt Creates Thirst
The final positive quality of salt we want to consider is that salt creates thirst. We may not think this is a positive quality because it is causing a deficiency in moisture in our bodies but, if we think spiritually, this is a good thing. Christians as the salt of the earth should create a thirst for God in the people we interact with daily. But how is this done?
First, I would say it starts by first having a good hunger and thirst for God yourself. At the start of the sermon on the mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” Matthew 5:6. Do not expect to have the thirst generating quality of salt if you are not longing after God and His righteousness with your whole being.
Secondly, if you have this hunger and thirst for righteousness, this should have a rippling effect on your life and the lives of others. Consider the second similitude of light and what Jesus said concerning our impact in the world by being lights. He says in Matthew 5:16, “Let your light shine in such a wat that may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” By actively pursuing righteousness (which comes from that hunger and thirst) that others will see you, your deeds words, etc., they will glorify God. And I would argue that by glorifying God, they begin to experience a genuine spiritual thirst for God.
Christians are likened to salt by Jesus because His followers are supposed to:
- Be separate and distinct from the world.
- Remind the world of sin and their need for Christ.
- Act as preserving agents in the communities they live in.
- And cause others who do not know Christ to thirst after Him.
Are you the salt of the earth?