Feasting with God #36
Salt of the Earth
13You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
By their way of life, the disciples of Jesus (that means you and me and anyone who would call himself “Christian”) will be as useful as salt is. Think of your delicious dinner meals: pork or beef or potatoes or corn. All delicious and juicy, but with just the right amount of salt, those dishes are improved, and may even reach perfection.
But if the salt in your shaker isn’t particularly salty, why would you dash it onto your food? It’s completely useless. You might as well throw it out.
In this passage from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he is instructing his followers in their way of life. They are as salt to the world. Humanity is the dinner dish which needs the salt. So the followers of Jesus are to improve humanity. Just what this meant Jesus said at the end of his earthly ministry: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matt. 18:19-20). If humanity is lead to “observe all that [Jesus] commanded,” certainly that’s an improvement. Jesus “commanded”: “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matt. 7:1), and “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them” (7:12), and “Pray then like this…” (6:9ff.), and “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow” (6:34), and “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (6:20), and “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (11:28). Observing all these things (and countless more), can humanity not be improved?
It is the mission of Jesus’ followers to “Go,” to teach these things, and to “make disciples,” to make more followers, to spread the saltiness. If they don’t perform this mission, can they possibly be called Jesus’ followers? This question, asked another way, is, if salt isn’t salty, can it possibly be called salt?
“I’m not a missionary,” says one Christian. “I’m not a pastor,” says another. “I don’t teach Sunday School,” “I can’t speak in public.” These objections are nothing but excuses that our sinful flesh makes to avoid doing what is in reality a difficult task. For those who undertake the mission given them by Christ, he also warns, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves…. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings…” (Matt. 10:16-18). So these excuses are legitimate, because by avoiding the mission, you avoid the suffering. But if you avoid the suffering, avoid the mission, then you also avoid the blessing: Jesus promised, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:10-12).
That’s the last of Jesus’ “Beatitudes,” where he describes the blessed ones who are members in his Church: Those who are in his church, therefore, can expect persecution, can expect opposition to the righteousness they proclaim, and beyond this they can expect the kingdom of heaven as their reward and inheritance, and they can be confident, because they are not alone, but “so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” A veritable cloud of witnesses, martyrs, saints, prophets, and mighty Christian men and women go back in history as an example, as friends, as coworkers in the kingdom of righteousness—these great ones were also salt of the earth, just as we are.
And if we are still concerned about how to talk to people, Jesus promises as well, “When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you” (Matt. 10:19-20). And don’t fret that you aren’t a pastor, or a missionary, or a Sunday School. Each member of Christ’s Church is a salt that is specifically designated to be applied in a different way and in different circumstances, as we sing in the hymn:
If you cannot be a watchman,
Standing high on Zion’s wall,
Pointing out the path to heaven,
Off’ring life and peace to all,
With your prayers and with your off’rings
You can do what God demands;
You can be like faithful Aaron,
Holding up the prophet’s hands.
(“Hark! The Voice of Jesus Crying,” Evangelical Lutheran Hymnary, #191)
Lord, guide us to fulfill the mission you have for us, in whatever station of life we find ourselves in. If we are to preach, give us the words to preach. If we are to teach, strengthen us with the knowledge of your Word and the ability to impart it to others. If we are to serve your kingdom and be the salt of the earth in some other way, prepare us for that service, and encourage us through the Gospel of your Son who paid the price for our sins and enabled us to come into this service, in whose name we pray. Amen.
Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.