"You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot."
—Matthew 5:13 (NRSV)
By Bishop Robert Hayes Jr.
Scholars declare the Sermon on the Mount is nothing less than the written charter of the Christian life. Often it is called the greatest homily ever preached by Jesus. It is found in Matthew 5:1-12.
After setting a new standard for the world with his nine beatitudes, Jesus quickly identified people who lived out those practices as being "the salt of the earth." I picture somewhat of a wide-eyed, Kodak moment occurring when he said that. Likely no one present that day had ever heard such a description.
It is no coincidence that Jesus used simple salt to make a very important point. In that era, salt was considered a rare spice. It was greatly valued, as precious as a human life. Salt was indispensable for preserving food.
It remains useful for food preservation today. Salt also adds zest to the taste of food; it flavors everything it contacts. The effectiveness of a pinch of salt goes far beyond the apportioned amount.
When Jesus called his followers "the salt of the earth," he was directing them to preserve, season, and add flavor to their world. Providing a dash of love, goodwill, hospitality, generosity, and sincerity can make a tremendous difference.
Modern-day disciples are similarly instructed in these words by Jesus. As Christians, we are called to be distinctive. We are directed to preserve decency and righteousness. It is our duty to offer life in Christ to those in search of it. If we are not engaged in the task of transforming the world, that world will rob us of our ability to change (season) it.
There is no middle ground, no room for compromise.
Notice the ending of today’s selected Scripture. Jesus gives a solemn warning: If we do not use our seasoning to make the world a better place, our uncommon spice becomes nothing more than a common embellishment.
Following Jesus’ resurrection and the experience of Pentecost, all who came in contact with the disciples knew they had been touched by God’s holy presence. Something unique had preserved in them a new purpose. A special quality had added conviction (zest) to everything they did.
Our world wants to know that we, too, have been with Jesus. One of the sure signs of his presence in our lives is the seasoning we provide to those around us.
The transforming winds of Christ
More than two-thirds of the perfumes and colognes sold throughout the world are made in Paris, France, according to estimates. That city considers itself the fragrance capital of the world, for men and women. When the workers there who bottle the fragrances exit their shops and factories for lunch, wind picks up the scents from their clothing and carries the aromas through the streets, creating a heavenly experience.
When the transforming winds of Christ sweep across our lives, we, too, are called upon to give the world a unique flavor, a special seasoning to preserve and keep alive the message of hope that Christ gave us.
And when it rains
One of the most memorable ad slogans is: "When it rains, it pours," which markets Morton Salt. The statement is accompanied by a sketch of a girl with a bright yellow umbrella, sheltered by it from the wind and rain.
Eventually I understood the point of that drawing. The advertisement had everything to do with moisture and humidity. The Morton company wanted consumers to know their brand of salt would pour easily regardless of such conditions.
As disciples, we are called to pour out ourselves for Christ, without conditions. We are instructed to add spice and seasoning to a world raining with suffering, injustice, poverty, greed, and a host of other troubles. Winds of tumult are tossing people who are struggling in their search for truth—and for the Savior.
My dear brothers and sisters: You are the salt of the earth! Add zest to everything around you! As you weather your life, let the world see you pouring out love because Christ has preserved you in God’s love.