Salt of the Earth

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. – Matthew 5:13

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. – Matthew 5:13

Salt of the earth. The phrase has entered the English language through this verse. What does it mean to be good “salt of the earth” people? To be good people, genuine and honest, hard-working, and upright are typically the qualities that come to mind. So good Christian people, one might say. Of course, when Jesus coined the idiom, His audience didn’t have such cultural context. So what would they have heard? Salt is a preservative, and it gives taste to food. It was not as easy to come by in those days, but it was not extremely expensive as other spices would have been (like cinnamon, for example). Everyone would’ve known what it was, and what it tasted like. So when Christ calls His followers “salt of the earth,” they are naturally thinking of the taste that salt provides. 

So we are to make the world taste good? Yes. As a preservative, salt tends not only to add taste, but keep in the taste of the thing it is added to; it accentuates the flavor. As Christians, we are not only giving the world a taste that it lacks, but we are bringing out (really, bringing back) the flavor it once had. The world was cursed. Though creation still cries out to glorify the Creator, it groans in anticipation for that day when the curse will be undone. God here promises that He will use us to begin to restore things now. We live not as wanderers merely waiting for the Rescuer on a day yet to come; we are His instruments now, living in the shadows of a dawn that has already broken. 

But this verse is not meant merely to be a positive command. It is a warning. Meat can be salted, but salt cannot be salted. It is the spice, but spice is not spiced. If it has no taste, if it brings nothing to food which it seasons, it is good for nothing. It is to be thrown out. As Calvin rightly put it, “The doctrine, which has been entrusted to [Christians], is shown to be so closely connected with a good conscience and a devout and upright life, that the corruption, which might be tolerated in others, would in them be detestable and monstrous.” [1] We are called to salt the earth, and we do so when we evangelize, sharing the good news found in the Word of God. But when we begin to engage in heinous sin, presuming upon the graces of our Lord, we begin to ruin our effectiveness in witnessing. Out of one side of our mouth we say that others must cease to be like the world, but out of the other we act exactly as the world does. The world begins to see us as one of them, and what good is a message of repentance, of turning away, that comes from one who refuses to do so himself? This is Christ’s point. There is mercy indeed, and Christ takes away the shame of sin for those who hurl their sin upon the cross in true repentance. But true repentance is turning unto Christ and seeking after His law. By His Spirit, we are made able to do this, however steep the road ahead may be. 

So let us salt the earth. What do we salt it with? The Word of God. When we speak, we speak without shame of the gospel it presents. We speak firmly for the truth that it presents to all areas of life. And we endeavor to live after its precepts, confident that the Lord will help us day be day as we seek to do so. The world groans for the return of the King, and we are called to prepare the way. So sound the trumpet; make ready for the coming of the King. The world will be ultimately restored to total newness, and all will be made right as New Jerusalem descends and the King takes up His throne here on the New Earth, ruling over all. 

 1. Calvin, John, and William Pringle.  Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Vol. 1. Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010. Print.