Salt doesn’t just make things taste good. Salt, like light, is essential for life.
Salt (a.k.a. sodium chloride) is essential for nerve and muscle function as well as regulating our bodies’ fluids and blood pressure. Because our bodies are constantly excreting salt through sweat and other fluids we need to constantly replenish the levels of sodium chloride in our body through our diet.
For a lot of human history salt wasn’t as easy to come by as it is today, and so, because it is so essential for our health humans developed a strong desire for salt. We crave it because we need it. Too much salt is bad for us, which is important to remember with so much salt around these days. Not enough salt, however, is also bad for us because salt is essential for life.
Before the days of potassium and other chemical based fertilizers salt was also a minor but important ingredient in fertilizer for crops. So, in Matthew 5:13, when Jesus says to his disciples and to the crowd “you are the salt of the earth” and “you are the light of the world” what he is saying is that God has made them for the purpose of giving life. He has made them to be an essential ingredient in the life and health of the world.
But then Jesus gives them this strange warning. “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 under foot.” It’s a strange warning because sodium chloride is a remarkably stable compound. Have you ever gone to your salt shaker and discovered that the salt inside had lost its saltiness? No, because it doesn’t happen. So, what’s Jesus talking about?
Well, the sad fact is that God’s people are not always the sort of force for life and health in the world that God originally made us to be. Sadder still, the failure of God’s people to be a force for life and source of light in the world is so often that case that it can seem pretty normal to us. But from God’s perspective (which is the perspective from which Jesus is speaking here) it is as surprising, disappointing and as bizarrely contradictory as if one of us were to discover that our salt was no longer salty.
But don’t worry. Jesus doesn’t just leave God’s people there all sad and unsavoury without any hope. In the gospel for this Sunday (Matthew 5:13-20) we’ll see how Jesus has come to help God’s people. He has come to help all of us fulfill our God-given purpose in the world.
I hope you can join us at 10am this Sunday as we learn more about how Jesus has come to help us fulfill our purpose together.