“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again?” (Matthew 5:13)
Yesterday (Palm Sunday) we started Holy Week — the last week of Lent, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, and perhaps the most sacred week on the Christian calendar.
My brother-in-law farms salt. Up in Karratha, Western Australia, he manages a salt operation for Rio Tinto and each year they collect over 100 million ton of salt by letting sea-water evaporate in enormous ponds (a 45-minute drive from one end to the other). When the crystallized salt reaches a depth of 15-18 inches, they bring in heavy equipment and scoop it up.
Salt may be one of the most pervasive elements on earth. If the oceans dried, I can’t imagine how deep the salt would be across vast reaches of the planet. And, as you know, salt serves various helpful and important purposes for us.
We use salt to flavor food. In some places people rub salt into meat to preserve it. I’ve even used salt to get leeches off me; a method far more preferable to fire!
So, when Jesus says “You are the salt of the earth” it evokes all kinds of possibilities. Flavor, preservation, and protection all spring to mind — all honorable uses and purposes — but His follow-up question turns the tables.
“But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again?”
Christianity has an extraordinary history of shaping humanity (flavor, preservation, and protection) by building hospitals, schools, social services, social justice organizations, and the sciences. No other religious system in human history has done, or is doing, as much for the weak, the vulnerable, or marginalized. Period.
But it’s not enough to point to human history, and sit back with some satisfaction. While history as a whole affirms the extraordinary power of the Christian faith to build communities and produce prosperous societies, the “salt” of which Jesus spoke was more than collective achievements. It comes down to a very personal level.
In what way is my particular life serving as salt, specifically in my family, my community, and my workplace? Is my life touching the lives of others in such a way as to make a difference?
One hundred million ton of salt is a lot of salt! But it doesn’t take that much salt to get the job done. Each single salt crystal has the same chemical makeup, and our tongues can identify it easily.
“What good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it useful again?”
We might ask ourselves: “What flavor will people identify today after being around us?”