“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” (Matthew 5:13)
Salt is incredibly important for various reasons. It gives flavor for cooking. It serves as a preservative for food. Some salts are even important in agricultural fertilizer. Salt was incredibly important in Jesus’ time and it continues to be important in our time.
When I was traveling in sub-Saharan Africa, mining for salt near a natural salt lake continued to this day. The salt was bagged up and sent throughout the region as an important export of that specific area because salt is important and valuable.
In some ways, here in Jesus’ teaching, it is less important what salt does, and perhaps more important what salt is. Salt is salty. It has a salty impact upon the world around it. If it loses its saltiness, well, it really isn’t valuable as salt anymore. You might even wonder if it’s still salt. Jesus says such material will be thrown out and trampled underfoot. It might as well be sand.
In a similar manner, disciples should have an impact on the world around them. Like salt in all its various uses in the world—flavoring, preserving, fertilizing—disciples are to have an important impact on the world around them. What is that impact? Well, Jesus will expound on that in the later sections of the Sermon on the Mount, but we can give a shorthand definition like this:
Disciples of Jesus are to proclaim and embody the love of Jesus Christ wherever they are. They are to look like Jesus in their character, words, and actions.
And here in this specific example from Matthew 5:13, disciples should taste like the kingdom of God and bring that wonderful savor, preservative, and fruitfulness to the world.
Just like unsalty salt isn’t really salt anymore, so un-disciple-y disciples aren’t really disciples anymore. It’s nonsensical to be a non-disciple-y disciple. And disciples live like God in the world.
So, to these everyday people who have become disciples—and to us—Jesus says: “You’re in the Kingdom of God and part of My people. So live as salty disciples wherever you are. Just don’t lose your saltiness.”