The Salt of the Earth

Matthew 5:13

The follower of Jesus is “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). The metaphor used would have occurred to Him while watching the fishermen using salt to preserve their fish.

Salt is essential to life. The action of salt seems obscure, but it saves from putrefaction. It has the silent gentleness of divine strength. The morals of a Christian keep alive a sense of duty and a consciousness of right.

Salt preserves, keeps fresh and saves from corruption. It has sanitary powers. Christians are the antiseptics of society. Salt counteracts the moral pollution of the world and gives health to the soul amid the foulness of the sin around.

In ancient times salt was associated with offerings. Covenants were made over a sacrificial meal and salt was a necessary element; hence the expression, “a covenant of salt” (Num. 18:19).

Salt was also a sacrament of friendship, a symbol of an enduring compact, the seal of the obligation to fidelity. In Leonardo da Vinci’s great painting of the Last Supper, Judas is picked out from all the others by having overturned the salt-cellar. The salt-cellar was a pledge of good faith. Overturned, it was an omen of coming treachery.

Our Lord used His picture of salt in relation to the Christian life. Nothing was more valuable than salt, but nothing more worthless if it had lost its flavor. It was fit only to be trampled down into the street. When once the Christian life has become tasteless, empty and futile, there is no way of making life worth living.

The new kingdom Christ inaugurated was to be radical and penetrating like “the salt of the earth.” The members of the kingdom are covenanted not only to arrest the decay of morals in the world, but to preserve the high standards of Christian living, to flavor life with radiant happiness and buoyant good taste.

Christian character works secretly, penetrating a man’s thought, influencing the atmosphere of life. Unseen and unapplauded, salt cleanses the elements around it. So the action of the follower of Christ is to disinfect the world, to bring those Christian antiseptics outlined in the Beatitudes to bear upon all around.

The Christian brings health to the life made foul by sin. We are “covenanted” to this sacrificial task. It is a “covenant of salt.”

George B. Smith, Meditations for the Ordinary Man

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