“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.”
The Lord has called us “salt.” Why does He use that symbol? What is there about salt that can tell us about ... well, us?
Let me share a little science with you here. Salt is a mineral made up of one atom of sodium and one of chlorine. Sodium is desperately seeking a partner, as is chlorine. Individually, they are reactive. Sodium, a powerfully alkaline metal, is explosive! If you were to swallow a piece of sodium, it would explode in your acidic stomach and you would be history. Chlorine is a highly toxic liquid, a taste of which would likewise render someone history. So, by us being “salt,” is Jesus saying that we are a combination of explosive and toxic qualities?
Probably not. Because sodium and chlorine together is very stable, not explosive and certainly not poisonous on fries. The two qualities of salt that Jesus is probably thinking of is salt’s preservative and flavoring abilities.
In the Middle East, the importance of preserving food made salt very valuable. It extended life. How do we extend the life of this world? In some churches where I’ve preached, I have asked, “Why is this world still around?” The world is still here because we are in it! We are that important to God, and He is preserving the world we are living in because of that.
Secondly, we add flavor. Salt enhances natural flavors. The sodium ions in it break down cell walls — for instance, in vegetables — which releases more of the inherent flavor. This world “tastes better” with the presence of Christians. Our positive spirits, our grace-filled personalities and activities, make things in this dark planet much more tolerable.
Salt itself is a naturally-occurring mineral, a product of the evaporation of salt water. I have fun telling kids, “You are sprinkling ground-up rocks on your fries!” A water-soluble rock, of course.
But there’s something else about salt. It’s not a blessing if it’s too concentrated. Witness the Dead Sea in Israel, where the water is nearly 10 times as salty as the ocean. Because of that high concentration, nothing can live in it — neither fish nor plants.
For salt to accomplish its positive mission, it needs to spread out. Too much salt will damage, not preserve, and it will make food unpalatable, not tasty. In Adventism, there has long been a joke about places where there were “too many Adventists.” Incidentally, Ellen White says as much.
But if we stick together too much, if there’s too much salt in one place, how can we be the preservative and flavor enhancers the world needs. Salt has to mingle to make a difference. So, what are we hoping for if we don't go out and mingle?
That makes our Christianity a “Salt Lick Christianity.” We hope the attractiveness of our faith, our longer lives and our impressive hospitals and schools will together draw people to us to be affected by our salt. A salt lick, as you know, is a cube-shaped chunk of salt that can be placed out in yards and pastures for animals to come along and lick. They thus can get their necessary salt. Are we hoping the world will do our work for us and come by ... for a lick of salt?