27 July 2016Matthew 5:13
“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 underfoot.” (v. 13)
Psalm: Psalm 119:161-176
You may well be familiar with the phrase 'So-and-So, they're the salt of the earth' - meaning that in individual can be relied upon, is loyal and trustworthy. This common English use of the phrase reflects at least part of Jesus' emphasis in today's verse. As Christ's followers, we should be reliable; we should be trustworthy; we should be loyal; we should be diligent in everything that is undertaken. The followers of Jesus are to be recognised in the world by the quality of their living. Indeed, in the Roman world, salt was regarded as a symbol of purity. This distinctiveness perhaps helps us to understand another nuance on Jesus' teaching here. Christ's followers, as "the salt of the earth" are to add flavour to the world. We are to add taste to the life of the whole world; we are to enrich and enhance the world by our presence and our participation. Sadly, too often the distinctive contribution of Jesus' followers has become lost in the world; it becomes diminished and dissolved as the Church takes on the characteristics of the world around it, rather than seasoning society and bringing out the best of flavours. Jesus warns against salt that has "lost its taste" and therefore becomes something to be discarded as useless.
Before the advent of refrigeration, salt was used as a means of preserving food. Salt stopped fresh food decaying. Traditionally, this capacity for salt to preserve has been regarded as a further element in Jesus' teaching. His followers, by their presence, participation and example in the world act to prevent moral, ethical and spiritual decay. Those translations of the Bible that translate "lost its taste" as "lost its saltiness" perhaps emphasise this preservative quality in salt. But here our emphasis is on taste and the distinctive, life enhancing vibrancy that followers of Jesus can bring into the world community.
- 'The followers of Jesus Christ are to be recognised in the world by the quality of their living'. Think of two people - perhaps one local to you and one national figure - who have impacted your life by 'the quality of their living' for Christ? What have they shown you?
- In what ways is the Christian community acting at 'salt' in your locality?
- What can contribute to the 'salt' of the Church losing its saltiness? And what can you do to prevent this?