“Ye are the salt of the earth: but 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” (Matthew 5:13).
In ancient times salt was the most important agent for seasoning and preserving foods. Pure salt is pungent and strong; it accentuates what is good, and prevents corruption. In the Bible, salt is a clear symbol of the sanctifying, keeping power of God which should be expressed in us. We are not sugar or honey, but the salt of the earth. If we stand for Christ in the face of mockery concerning divine things at school, at work, or in other situations, then we are the salt of the earth. We might consider it useless to be the only ones in our surroundings who take a stand for the things of our Lord, but let us remember: “Ye are the salt of the earth!” Often, our mere presence will exercise a moderating influence on unbelievers.
Two further passages make clear that this “salt” should not be confused with arrogance or condescension. The Lord says in Mark 9:50 to His disciples: “Have salt in yourselves, and have peace one with another.” Paul writes to the Colossians: “Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6). Grace and peace are not opposed to salt, but complementary to it.
The salt known in ancient times did not have the purity of modern salt. In particular the salt gained from the Dead Sea contained considerable amounts of minerals. If the salt got too wet, or was stored for a long time under wrong conditions, the useful part—the saltiness—could be washed out. Thus the salt became of no use because only the useless ingredients remained, which were then cast out to be carelessly trodden under foot by men.
Salt is a picture of the influence going out from the testimony of a believer. Somebody whose testimony does not have this power is useless. We must be careful when reading this passage. It does not deal with whether or not a born again Christian can be lost. God’s Word does not leave this question open. He who believes on the Son of God has eternal life. And no one can or will seize out of His and the Father’s hand those to whom He has given eternal life (John 3:36; John 10:28,29). Saints can never lose their soul, but they can lose their savor!
The words of the Lord contain a serious admonition for each one of those who belong to Him. Is not our spiritual life and our witness often useless and without power? Then we are, practically speaking, useless for the Lord! We are like the salt that has lost its taste and power. If we do not have fellowship with our Lord daily, by prayer and the reading of His Word, our spiritual life will be dry and without joy and power.
—Adapted from “The Sermon on the Mount” by Arend Remmers, originally published in Truth and Testimony.