34“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? 35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out. “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
The word “salty” has a lot of different meanings in our common language. It can mean bitter, angry, resentful as in; “Don’t be salty!” or “She is salty toward him!” But in ancient times, salt was salt. When something was salty, that meant that it was preserved, it was in good condition to eat or consume.
Salt served a function, it was very useful and had great value in Biblical times and it was synonymous with preservation, especially of meats.
But salt had another value in Biblical times.
A Covenant of Salt
In Palestine and surrounding countries salt was used in making covenants. If people dined together on food with salt in it, they became friends, though they may have been enemies before. The Arab expression, “There is salt between us,” or “He has eaten of my salt,” means partaking of the hospitality which cements friendship. Covenants were generally confirmed at sacrificial meals and salt was always present. The covenant of salt pictured the everlasting friendship between God and His people.
19Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the Lord I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the Lord for both you and your offspring.”
Since it was scarce, salt was precious. It was used in every sacrifice as well as to preserve meat, and it became the symbol of the incorruptibility of God’s covenant, and of man’s perpetual obligation to Him. “A covenant of salt” referred to any inviolable covenant.
13Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.
The Lord gave the kingdom to David forever by a covenant of salt.
2 Chronicles 13:5
5Don’t you know that the Lord, the God of Israel, has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?
In Jewish culture Salt was a symbol of a promise of loyalty to a covenant, of friendship and everlasting connectedness. Generally, salt stays salty. It has the power to preserve other things because its own nature is not diminished by outside influences.
Jesus’ use of the phrase “If salt loses its saltiness…” while being a bit absurd to us, would have been very familiar to his audience because they understood that salts saltiness was influenced by where you got your salt.
Much of the salt that the Jews in this area had was from the Dead Sea and it was mixed with Gypsum which greatly diminished its quality. It had to be processed in the right way in order to do its job.
In the same way, it matters how our salt gets processed!
How You Process Salt Matters
In Matthew 5:13, which is a parallel passage to the one we read earlier, Jesus declares:
13 “You are the salt of the earth…”
We have to see this passage in its full context. It comes after three other scriptures that speak to the expectation of counting the cost before one becomes a disciple. That becoming a follower of Jesus, becoming one of his Disciples is not something to take lightly. As we have already looked at, salt was a sign of a bond of friendship, a covenant of loyalty forever. Is this not the commitment that we are called to make as Disciples?
If this is the case, then it matters how we become Disciples. If the salt was not processed properly, or if it became compromised it was worthless. Good for nothing! Take a look again at what Jesus said back in Luke 14:35
35It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.
You can’t just throw it anywhere, if you threw it in your garden (soil) it would kill everything there, if you threw it on the manure pile (compost pile) it would make your fertilizer worthless even dangerous to your crops. If you lose your saltiness, you are good for nothing; to Jesus, it was worthless!
Isn’t this just like a person who gets baptized but truly has not counted the cost? Someone who went through the studies but was not fully committed. Was not truly loyal, and did not truly make a covenant to God before their baptism? We all know stories of people who did much damage on their way out of the kingdom because they were not truly made into a Disciple as Jesus calls in Matthew 28!
60On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”…“66From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.”
What I find interesting about this passage in John is that the Bible calls these “Disciples.” Even in Jesus ministry there were people who were baptized that were not truly made into a disciple! But we are still called to “Go and make disciples.”
19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Making a disciple is calling someone to be committed, to be loyal to God, but also it’s a promise that if we are to remain loyal, to remain steadfast, we will be used in a powerful way to preserve those around us from the decay and rot that is inherent to this world!
But what is even scarier than this is the fact that many who are disciples cannot physically turn back, but in their hearts they turn back. This too is something that Jesus, in a manner of speaking, told his followers that is worthless, and to be thrown out. Take a look in Revelation 3:15-16:
15I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.
Being lukewarm is something that Jesus says is worthless. Like a drink that has lost its use (hot or cold) is a disciple who has become lukewarm, uncommitted, and again, to Jesus; useless! To the point that he quite literally wants to spit us out!
I remember when my wife and I moved to Alaska. We had such high hopes for what God was going to do in and through us in my hometown and in my home state. I had dreamed of planting churches there from the early days of my baptism and when we arrived, we were eager to get started. But what we found was a church of hurting people who didn’t want to work, who didn’t want to put in the effort. Many of them had become stagnant in their discipling and our eagerness to get help in our new 10 month old marriage and in growing spiritually and helping our families to become disciples was met with hostility and resistance.
While we kept at it, looking back I could feel the subtle creep of that culture coming into my heart and I began to tone it down. Before long, our marriage was an absolute wreck, while our Bible Talk thrived because we still practiced the Bible as the standard, while we were sitting in our own sin, we tried the best we could to help others. As Jesus said to the church in Laodicea, we thought we were fine but we were wrenched, pitiful, poor, blind and necked! We were busy trying to build, but in the same movement of putting a brick in the wall, we were also taking one down.
Not only is it destructive to the church to not truly make a disciple! But it is also, maybe even more so destructive to the church when we who are disciples forget our first love, and begin to cool down inside of the kingdom. Jesus certainly has a strong view of it and so should we!
God is calling us to be the salt of the earth!
2 kings 2:19-22
19The people of the city said to Elisha, “Look, our lord, this town is well situated, as you can see, but the water is bad and the land is unproductive.” 20“Bring me a new bowl,” he said, “and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21Then he went out to the spring and threw the salt into it, saying, “This is what the Lord says: ‘I have healed this water. Never again will it cause death or make the land unproductive.’ ” 22And the water has remained pure to this day, according to the word Elisha had spoken.
God is calling us to be, and to make men and women into disciples so that no longer will we be those who caused death and make the land unproductive, but to be pure…and remain that way forever!
We are the salt of the earth, if we do not remain salty, if we become compromised, uncommitted and lukewarm, there is no plan B. Brothers and sisters, let us commit to being strong, faithful , fully committed disciples, and to go into our neighborhoods, our schools, our workplaces and our families and make strong, faithful, fully committed disciples.
My challenge to us all is to simply: Stay Salty!