“You 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” (Matthew 5:13, ESV).
Jesus uses a metaphor to call His followers “the salt of the earth” in Matthew 5:13. A “metaphor” is an unstated comparison. There is no “like” or “as” such as may be seen in similes. So, what was it Jesus was trying to get across as He calls His people to be “salt.” Here are a few ideas...
Purity. Salt, because it is white and because of its origins, is often associated with purity. As Paul wrote Timothy he encouraged him to “be an example...in purity” (4:12) and to treat the “younger women as sisters, with all purity” (5:1). Purity should be a word used to describe the motives, speech and actions of those who claim to be followers of Christ.
Preservation. Salt is commonly used as a preservative for foods. Spend some time during harvest canning and a common ingredient shows up—salt. Before the days when refrigeration prolonged the lifespan of meat, salt was often used to preserve meats from rot and decay. The Christian is the world’s preservative. We keep the world from spoiling. People can either contribute to the improvement or decay of the world. Jesus wants us to be the type of people who make this world a better place. People, when around Christians, ought to be improved by our influence upon them. Take the influence of Christianity out of a home, a community or a nation and you will eventually find a deteriorating people.
Palatability. Salt makes some foods palatable. It gives them some additional flavor and taste that pleases the palate. When Christians walk by “the fruit of the Spirit” they fill the world with “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22). These qualities truly make the world a more pleasant place. When the opposite of these qualities begin to rule the day then life becomes a sickening experience.
Production. Salt produces a thirst. Eat a salty ham and you will want water later. Christians ought to live in such a way that it produces a thirst from others. The highest compliment an acquaintance can pay is to want to aspire to live as Christians do. How wonderful when we can live in such a way that it produces a “hunger and thirst for righteousness” in the lives of observers.
What are we if we are not “salt?” Jesus, essentially, calls us useless. Be salt!