Worth your salt

Worth your salt

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. – Matthew 5:13

Colossians 4:6 Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person (NAU).

Colossians 4:6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone (NLT).

Salt has been used by people for thousands of years. It was once so valuable that people traded it ounce-per-ounce with gold. Wars were fought over it.

The word “salary” comes from the Latin word for salt, sal. It was once used as currency. In ancient Rome, soldiers were frequently paid in salt. If a soldier was doing less than stellar work, his pay would be cut because he wasn’t “worth his salt.”

Salt is popular because it makes so many things taste better. Scientists have discovered that our brains are not able to detect most flavor compounds. However when salt is added to the mix, our taste receptors kind of get fired up. We suddenly become aware of flavors we could not detect before. On top of that, salt seems to heighten agreeable flavors and diminish disagreeable ones.

Somehow salt seems to have a mind of its own. When salt is used in low concentrations, sweet, sour, or umami flavors are increased. Thus a bit of salt in a cookie makes it taste sweeter. But adding more salt somehow manages to suppress sweet flavors, bringing out the more salty and savory ones. 

In the ancient world, salt was highly valued and had many uses. Salt was connected with purity. The Romans said that salt was the purest of all things, because it came from the purest of all things, the sun and the sea (Barclay). Salt was also a preservative and was used to keep things from going bad. It slowed the process of putrefaction. The ancient Egyptians used salt in the mummification process. But the most obvious quality of salt is to enhance flavor.

When the Lord Jesus Christ referred to salt, He focused on taste. The Lord Jesus Christ makes a simple point. Salt is beneficial as long as it retains its saltiness.

David Cooper articulated the golden rule of interpretation: “When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other senses; therefore take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual literal meaning . . .”

The words of the Lord Jesus Christ are simple and clear, yet they are teaming with layered nuances. Upon reflection, the obvious becomes sublime. Salt brings out the best in food, it enhances the flavor.

How does salt enhance flavor? Perhaps some semantic synonyms may help. Consider words such as: augment, boost, heighten, intensify, raise, strengthen, amplify, lift, affect, arouse, or embolden. Somehow salt is able to influence and improve. Salt maximizes the natural and inherent qualities present.

Simply stated, the Lord Jesus Christ intends for those who follow Him to be effective and reliable influencers of others. It is our mission to bring out the best and curb the baser aspects of others.

REFLECT & PRAY

Always do your best. What you plant now, you will harvest later. – Og Mandino

Father encourage and strengthen me to be an effective, positive influence on others.

INSIGHT

Pure salt, NaCl, sodium chloride, is a stable chemical compound. It cannot lose its salinity, and always remains “salty.” Pure salt was most often extracted from seawater by allowing water to evaporate leaving the NaCl behind with various mineral elements. Today we call this sea salt.

But common salt during New Testament times was dug from the shores of the Dead Sea. This salt was a mixture of sodium chloride and various other substances such as gypsum and lime, etc. The actual salt, being more soluble than the impurities, could be leached out, leaving a residue so dilute it was of little worth. The residue had lost its effectiveness. It was useless, literally good for nothing. Therefore it was thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.

This is the kind of salt that the Lord Jesus Christ had in mind. Common salt could lose its effectiveness.

The Greek verb translated lost its flavor or lost its taste is moraino from moros, foolish or insipid. It has the sense to cause something to lose its effectiveness, to lose the purpose for which it exists, to become dull, worthless. The Rabbis commonly used salt as an image for wisdom (Col 4:6), which may explain why the Greek word represented by “lost its taste” actually means ‘become foolish’ (France).

When salt enhances flavor, purifies, or prevents decay it is performing the purpose for which it was created. Literal salt has a transforming effect and allows heretofore undetectable flavors to be recognized and enjoyed.

Is it too much of a stretch to think that the Father has similar objectives for each of His children? The Lord Jesus Christ called us salt. As salt, we are to effectively impact those which the Father places within their sphere of influence. When we lose effectiveness and impact, for all practical purposes are our worthless.

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