Salt of the Earth

Salt of the Earth

Pastor Don Carpenter / General

Influence; A Witness / Matthew 5:13

In 1871 the New York Herald sent Henry Stanley to Africa in search of the missionary, David Livingstone, who was long overdue. After unbelievable hardships, the journalist found the explorer in central Africa, where he spent four months with him. Stanley went to Africa a conceited and confirmed atheist, but Livingstone’s influence, gentleness, genuineness, goodness, and zeal won Stanley. Stanley became a Christian, saying, “I was converted by him, although he had not tried to do it.”

David Livingston made a difference everywhere he went, not because he was an effective Jesus salesman, but because he knew what it was like to be salt and light. 2020 has been a year like no other. In America, we face division, deception, and depression both as a society and as individuals. We cannot trust the election process, the information and recommendations about COVID, or even the ability to transmit uncensored truth to our friends and family on social media. Tensions are running high, there is talk of violence and patriots rising up to shed the blood of tyrants. What is a believer to do?

Today we are going to look at a two part message on how Jesus wants us to respond to a lost world around us. With talk of distrust and unrest, we do not need to add to the agitation, we need to heed the words of our Savior. This morning we are going to discover that we, as born again believers, can make a difference in a corrupt and tasteless society by being the Salt of the Earth.

Believers are the Salt of the Earth.

Matthew 5:13 KJV

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.

 Salt is one of the most common substances on the earth and cannot be destroyed by fire or time. Also known as “white gold,” it is one of the most significant substances in history, along with iron, gold, and wheat. In ancient societies it was a valuable social and economic commodity… In ancient Egypt it was a symbol of luxury, and Egyptians used it in the mummification of their dead and to preserve olives and fish. At one point in the history of the early Roman Empire, salt from the sea was brought inland and sold for slaves.

  Salt has also served as a significant figurative symbol. Sharing salt was a symbol of friendship and hospitality, and ancient conflicts concluded with a meal consisting of bread and salt as a symbol of friendship (Aristotle, Eudemian Ethics 7.2.46; Cicero, Treatise of Friendship 19.67). One who violated the eating of salt was a traitor (Demosthenes, On the Embassy 191). Salt was also viewed as a divine gift (Plutarch, Symposium 5.10.2; Homer, Iliad 9.214).1

1 Robert G. Rayburn II, “Salt,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Salt as a Symbol of Life

 In the biblical world, salt was associated with life due to its uses as a preservative, a purifying agent, and a seasoning. Many of the symbols attached to salt reflect its practical uses. For example, because salt can delay the rotting or decaying process when rubbed into meat, it is a symbol of incorruptibility. Salt was also a symbol of provision, and eating someone’s “bread and salt” left the eater obligated to the giver (Ezra 4:14). Other practical uses of salt attested in the ancient world include:1

1 Robert G. Rayburn II, “Salt,” ed. John D. Barry et al., The Lexham Bible Dictionary (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2016).

Years ago when William Burt, a Methodist bishop, retired, he received a bound book of autographed tributes from those who had served with him on a certain board of the denomination. The following letter is a tribute concerning his Christian influence:

Dear Bishop Burt:

Your years have passed like sunlight. They were beautiful, and filled with service in the old world and in the new. God has been with you, and you have been with God.

Would you might live a hundred years to bless mankind, but wherever you are, in earth or heaven, you will like the place. You make it good to live where you are around.

You have blessed my life, and I want to live with you forever in the skies.

Your brother everywhere,

William A. Quayle

1 G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 182.

Stay Salty My Friend

Matt 5:13

…Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted?

Prevent Rot

Leviticus 2:13 KJV

And every oblation of thy meat offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat offering: with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt.

Purify What is Corrupted

2 Kings 2:19–22 KJV

And the men of the city said unto Elisha, Behold, I pray thee, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord seeth: but the water is naught, and the ground barren. 

And he said, Bring me a new cruse, and put salt therein. And they brought it to him. 

And he went forth unto the spring of the waters, and cast the salt in there, and said, Thus saith the LORD, I have healed these waters; there shall not be from thence any more death or barren land. 

So the waters were healed unto this day, according to the saying of Elisha which he spake.

Protect Newborns

Ezekiel 16:4 KJV

And as for thy nativity, in the day thou wast born thy navel was not cut, neither wast thou washed in water to supple thee; thou wast not salted at all, nor swaddled at all.

However, the Bible doesn’t say that salt protects an infant from spiritual harm or that God requires babies to be dedicated to Him through salt ceremonies.

Historians cite some traditionally accepted beliefs for washing babies in salted water, or rubbing them with salt powder, or massaging them with salted oil. The earliest documentation they mention is a treatise written in 100 AD by Soranus of Ephesus, a Greek obstetrician, pediatrician and gynecologist who practiced medicine in first century Alexandria and Rome. Soranus’ work set the standards for medical treatment of women and children for 1500 years.[1] In his document, “On Midwifery and the Diseases of Women,” Soranus recommends sprinkling babies with powdery salt to cut through any placental remains and birth residue on the infant’s skin. He believed salt mixed with honey, olive oil, barley juice, fenugreek or mallow should be massaged into a baby’s skin then washed away with warm water.[2] The only other old reference I found was a comment attributed to Rabbi Isaac ben Judah Arabanel that salting the infant strengthened its skin.[3]

The few commentators (Clarke, Gill) who expound the salt element of Ezekiel 16:4 state that it was believed by some to be healthful, as it purportedly:

 • promoted greater firmness to the skin by constricting the pores

 • cleansed from blood

 • prevented putrefaction,hardened the flesh,

 • dried up moisture,purged the skin,

 • softened the skin,

 • disinfected,

 • strengthened immunity,

 • improved wound healing,

 • prevented rashes, and

 • created an environment inhospitable to bacteria.

Make Spiritual Food Taste Better.

Job 6:6–7 KJV

Can that which is unsavoury be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg? 

The things that my soul refused to touch Are as my sorrowful meat.

Colossians 4:6 KJV

Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.

Make People Thirsty for Living Water

Matthew 5:6 KJV

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

John 4:13–14 KJV

Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 

But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Don’t Become Tasteless and Useless Salt

Matthew 5:13 KJV

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.

 Unsalty salt is a contradiction in terms (“like water losing its wetness,” Betz); if it is not salty, it is not salt. But salt as used in the ancient world was seldom pure sodium chloride. The “salt” collected around the Dead Sea contained a mixture of other minerals,14 and it is possible to imagine the true salt content being washed out, leaving a useless residue. In any case, Jesus is not teaching chemistry, and the ludicrous imagery of trying to “salt” that which should itself be the source of saltiness is a powerful indictment of disciples who have lost their distinctiveness and so no longer have anything to contribute to society. The verb which I have translated “becomes tasteless” more literally means “becomes foolish.” The apparently inappropriate verb points to the metaphorical role of the salt here, to symbolize the wholesome flavor of wisdom which disciples are to contribute. We use “taste” to speak of an aesthetic rather than an intellectual quality, but “tasteless” perhaps goes some way towards catching what may have been a more obvious double-entendre in Hebrew and Aramaic, where the verb t?p?l can mean both to be tasteless and to be foolish. The trampling of the tasteless “salt” does not have to imply that it then finds a useful role as surfacing for a path; it is simply thrown out into the street as refuse.171

1 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publication Co., 2007), 174–175.

It is understandable to be upset about the things happening in our nation. The hard sad truth is that we can’t do anything about that stuff, nor should we. The election is over. There are checks and balances in place if something funky is happening.  And if those folks miss it, God will not. We need to trust Him.

We can and must however, make a difference in our own circles of influence. As believers we have made to be salt. We need to stay salty. We need to:

 • Prevent Rot

 • Purify what has been corrupted

 • Protect Newborn Believers

 • Help Spiritual Truth Taste Better when seasoning it with our lives and personalities

 • And create a thirst for Jesus Christ, the Living water who is the only one that will ultimately make a difference.

When Robert Burns, the eighteenth-century Scottish poet, was at the height of his literary popularity, he observed the admiration of a small boy who followed him around. One day he turned and said to the lad, “Walter, what do you want?” The boy answered that some day he, too, wanted to be a writer. Whereupon Burns laid His hand on the lad’s head and said, “You can be a great writer some day, Walter, and you will be.” The boy became the enviable and prolific novelist, Sir Walter Scott.1

1 G. Curtis Jones, 1000 Illustrations for Preaching and Teaching (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1986), 182.

Do not become apathetic and complacent. You are the Salt of the Earth.

Exported from Logos Bible Software, 1:20 PM November 6, 2020.

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