In the nine Beatitudes recorded in Matthew’s Gospel (5:1-12), a practical definition is given of a citizen in the kingdom of the King. In the Similitudes (Matt. 5:13-16), the practical function of a Christian is provided. That is, the Christian is to be salt and light. Salt is used by way of an illustration because it was an extremely important element.
Salt has been associated with purity and was added to all burnt animal sacrifices, according to the Law of Moses. Leviticus 2:13, “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.”
Salt has been associated with good health. For that reason new born Hebrew babies were rubbed with salt.
Salt could be used as the basis for divorce among the Hebrews. If the wife neglected to salt the food she could be sent away.
Salt, when accepted from someone, was a sign of being in that person’s service. When the enemies of Ezra wrote a letter of complaint to Artaxerxes I of Persia to explain their own loyalty to the king, they framed their faithfulness in figurative terms of having received salt. Ezra 4:14, Now because we have maintenance from the king’s palace, [literally, “because we have eaten the salt of the palace”] and it was not meet [right] for us to see the king’s dishonour, therefore have we sent and certified the king; 15 That search may be made in the book of the records of thy fathers: so shalt thou find in the book of the records, and know that this city is a rebellious city, and hurtful unto kings and provinces, and that they have moved sedition within the same of old time: for which cause was this city destroyed.
Salt was used to ratify a treaty or a covenant. Salt was used to indicate that the covenant could not be broken. Numbers 18:19, All the heave offerings of the holy things, which the children of Israel offer unto the Lord, have I given thee, and thy sons and thy daughters with thee, by a statute for ever: it is a covenant of salt for ever before the Lord unto thee and to thy seed with thee. 2 Chronicles 13:5, Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?
In the Middle East today, salt is used at a meal as a sign of friendship and hospitality. The Arabs say, “We have eaten together as friends. There is salt between us” (International Standard Encyclopedia).
Salt was once so scarce it was used as money. Roman soldiers were given a salārium which was the sum given to buy salt.
The first reference to salt in literature is found in Scripture. Job 6:6, Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?
The qualities of salt also reveal its importance.
Salt provides flavor. Christianity is to life what salt is to food.
Salt preserves from corruption. Society would be more corrupt without the presence of Christians. Because of this, Christians are not to withdraw and isolate themselves from society. In order to be the “salt of the earth” the Christian’s presence must be made known in society.
Salt provokes thirst. Christians should thirst after righteousness.
Salt is a common substance. Christians are not called the diamonds of the world, though true Christians are rare. Nor are Christians called the gold of the earth, though believers are precious to the Lord. Christians are called the salt of the earth which speaks of something common, insignificant, inexpensive. Salt is a good term for a Christian because God does not choose the mighty, the noble, the rich, the rare, but the simple to serve Him. 1 Corinthians 1:26 For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: 27 But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; 28 And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: 29 That no flesh should glory in his presence.
However, as important as salt can be, Jesus said, “if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” These are sobering words. They were meant to be. The message is sharp: it is possible for salt to become mixed with other elements and become impure. It is possible for salt to lose its savor. It is possible for salt to lose its purpose. So it is possible for a Christian to lose sight of the purpose of salvation. It is possible for a person to apostatize. It is possible for a professing Christian to sin a sin unto death. It is possible for a Christian to lose the testimony they once had.
A Biblical example of what the Lord is saying in Matthew 5:12 is illustrated in the life of Demas. In 2 Timothy 4:10 we read, “For Demas hath forsaken me, having loved this present world, and is departed unto Thessalonica; Crescens to Galatia, Titus unto Dalmatia.” There was a time when Paul spoke about Demas in a positive way. In Colossians 4:14, Demas is associated with Luke, the beloved physician, sending greetings to the church at Colossae. In Philemon 1:24, Paul calls Demas his fellow-laborer. But something terrible happened to Demas. He lost his way. He lost his testimony. He forsook the apostle Paul because he loved the world. “Sin does bring uselessness, and fruitlessness, in the Christian’s life” (Dr. S. Lewis Johnson).
Oh Christian, are you still the salt of the earth? Are you still a preserving influence at church, at home, at work, and in society? Or, are you losing your savor? Are you like Demas who forsook the Lord for the pleasures of the world, like the prodigal son of whom Jesus spoke in Luke 15?
“Out in the highways and byways of life,
many are weary and sad;
Carry the sunshine where darkness is rife
making the sorrowing glad.
Make me a blessing,
Make me a blessing,
Out of my life
May Jesus shine;
Make me a blessing, O savior, I pray,
Make me a blessing to someone today.
Tell the sweet story of Christ and His love;
Tell of His pow’r to forgive;
Others will trust Him if only you prove
true ev’ry moment you live.
Give as ‘twas given to you in your need;
Love as the Master loved you;
Be to the helpless a helper indeed;
Unto your mission be true.”