I did a pastoral visit to an elderly lady this afternoon. It was amazing to hear how she serves other elderly people with her spiritual gifts and abilities. What was impressive to hear was what she does … and she was untrained in the field of service, but because of a loving, willing, Gospel heart, she quickly learnt and has set up a ministry to her peers that blesses them, encourages them, motivates them, stimulates their minds and at the same time gives her pleasure as she serves them and her Lord. In different words, she said she wants to bless them to keep them going in their old age. Did our Lord Jesus not say:
Mt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men”
This lady is salt!
Salt has many purposes. One would be to give taste or flavour. I recall braaing some meat on a specific occasion. I forgot to sprinkle salt or “braai salt” on the meat before braaing it. Once done, the meat looked so good yet one bite revealed the mistake … no salt! Salt tends to bring the true flavor out of meat or vegetables or a tomato.
Another use would be to preserve foods such as meat. In the days before refrigeration, meat would be heavily salt before being loaded onto ships that would take a voyage lasting six weeks to two or three months (depending on the weather). When working on the West Coast we were introduced to “bokkoms”. This was a small fish known as a southern mullet. This fish was salted in a brine and hung in the sun to dry for a long period of time. Should you drive through a town like Veldrift, you would see the bokkoms hanging on fences or on lines with nets covering them. Very often this “fish biltong” was used as a snack or sold to famers inland who gave it to their farm workers who would use it as a supplement for meat.
Still another use is healing. Sea water is an amazing natural source for healing wounds. If you have a scratch or cut and go into the sea water, once soaked healing kicks in and soon you will find the wound healed.
There are over 14,000 uses for salt these days. Over the years salt has been used in the tanning industry as well as dyeing, bleaching, the production of pottery, soap and chlorine … not forgetting the chemical industry. Many people use salt to keep their swimming pools clean in place of chlorine.
Jesus says to His followers:
Mt 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth.”
This means that as Christians and as a Church we need to bring taste and flavor to our society. This is spiritual … meaning that because of the Gospel we need to show what life in Jesus can be like to the “dark” world out there. Think of the Psalmist saying:
Ps 34:8 Taste and see that the LORD is good
Until the lost world tastes, they will never see that the Lord is good. The only way they will ever desire to taste is when they see the flavor we bring to society as the children of God.
As salt, we preserve our society through praying for it, witnessing to it and living the Gospel life before it. Remember Jonah? He went and preached to a godless people, they believed and were saved! This is where the healing takes place as people respond to the Gospel and marriages are restored, relationships healed, children start living better morally and society is cleansed of all its wickedness. Through us being salt, praying and fasting for our community, through God’s grace souls are saved and little bits at a time society finds true healing and is preserved … and escapes the wrath of God … at least at the moment. Do you see how important Christian witness is? Do you see how important a Church’s testimony is in a society? A Gospel Church is a community’s saving grace … even if they don’t attend it.
But did you notice what else Jesus says in the verse? “But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men”? In some hot countries, salt is produced by the evaporation of sea water. It is said that sometimes through this process the saline properties are lost. Sometimes, rock salt through exposure to the air becomes impure.
One accounts says that traders brought salt from Cyprus which was stored in a room that had a sand floor. The bags of salt closest to the floor were spoilt. Salt from the Dead Sea was used on temple sacrifices to neutralize the smell of burning flesh. Should the salt become damp it was useless … and like all salt that became useless, the only thing to be done was to throw this useless salt onto the roads. This assisted to prevent slipping in wet weather. This is where the saying “thrown out and trampled by men” came from.
What then does it mean for Christians to lose their saltiness? That is … when Christians as individuals and Churches as communities no longer add taste and flavor to society … That society will not be exposed to the Gospel and not see true Christianity is action and not be challenged to change, to turn to Jesus … and be left hopeless and helpless before a Holy God who will one day act against the community.
But who will be the real culprits? The Christians and the Churches who have lost their saltiness! What is Jesus saying will happen to them? Well if salt was thrown out to be trampled on … so too will the Christians and the Church who no longer experience the effects of the Gospel (taste, flavor, preservation, healing, cleansing). The Church will cease to exist as a fountain for the Gospel because it lost the Gospel … and the Christian will be ashamed of being ineffective for the Gospel.
Dear God, how terribly disappointed You must be when a Church or when Christians lose their usefulness to the Gospel because they have taken their eyes off Jesus. They lose their spiritual identity and became ineffective. Father, prevent me and the church I belong to from losing our saltiness. Amen.