I was struck the other day by the words of Jesus talking about salt. It was not so much what He had to say about the usefulness of salt as much as what happens when salt loses its saltiness. Jesus said, “It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matthew 5:13b ESV).
I find it interesting that most teachings I have heard on this passage focus on the usefulness of salt—to preserve, to enhance taste, or to generate thirst. Each of these in their own way can create helpful discussion of the role of disciples in the world, and we would do well to pay attention to these pictures. Yet none of them get at the point of Jesus’ words in this parable.
The parable does not articulate what the role of salt is in the world. The point of the parable remains the same: if salt ceases to perform according to its design, it becomes expendable. It will be cast out.
This is not a complicated parable. We must do what we were created to do, and what we were created to do has something to do with the Kingdom of God.
This brief parable of the salt follows immediately on the heels of the Beatitudes: nine statements that give substance to life in the Kingdom of God. The salt is the Kingdom. We are the salt. We are the manifestation of the Kingdom in our community.
You could argue that the Kingdom preserves, flavors, and causes thirst. Any of these images can work. However if I fail to season my neighborhood with the salt of the Kingdom, quite frankly, what use am I? If I don’t bring the Kingdom, I bring nothing.
This is a sobering parable. If I have no Kingdom in me, I will be discarded.
Jesus had a way of making these incredibly provocative statements without actually accusing anyone of anything. There were certainly times when Jesus called out the religious elite in public, but in this setting He is speaking to a vast crowd and is simply stating the facts. He is laying out expectations.
As leaders and shepherds, we are responsible for the flock in our care. Parables like these always cause me to pause and reflect on what we are so busy accomplishing. I begin to ask questions: Are my relationships seasoned with the salt of the Kingdom? Are the people around me seasoned with the salt of the Kingdom? In other words, what I am modeling?
No matter what else we do, if we have no salt, it has no value.
We are pushed and pulled in so many directions. I am learning that it is not so much a matter of choosing the right priorities to fill our week as much as being salt in whatever priorities come our way. May I encourage you, that in whatever comes your way this week, “You are the salt of the earth.”
NAB Vice President of Ministry Outreach