In what is often referred to as the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ took His disciples to a secluded spot on a mountainside of Galilee and there personally taught them about the way of life that leads to true happiness. That day, He made a metaphorical statement likening His disciples to a common mineral.
“Ye are the salt of the earth,” Christ said, “but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).
Christ made this comparison to His disciples, and God canonized this statement for all of His people through the ages. Why did Christ compare us to salt? Let’s review a few physical attributes of salt and grasp the spiritual parallels.
Salt is a common mineral. More than 14,000 uses of salt have been cataloged. Most of these uses are industrial: Meat packers, chemical companies, soap manufacturers, glass producers, and even metal smelters and refiners use salt. No other basic commodity is put to as many uses as salt!
In the time of Christ, salt was not as readily available as it is today. It was once so rare and valuable that it was used to pay the wages of Roman soldiers (the word salary derives from this ancient practice). On hearing “Ye are the salt of the Earth,” Christ’s disciples would have immediately made the connection to its value and rarity.
Let’s examine a few specific aspects of salt to understand more reasons why Christ compares His people to salt.
Salt Is Enduring
Salt does not spoil or go bad, and it can be subjected to severe tests yet not be destroyed. What happens when salt is dissolved it in water? It disappears. It is no longer in its solid state, but it still exists in another form. If you take a sip of the water, the salt is still there; you can taste it!
Salt can also be subjected to extreme temperatures. It melts only at the red-hot temperature of 801 degrees Celsius, but still maintains its unique chemical composition. Just as salt can be subjected to many “tests” without changing its chemical composition, so should we Christians be able to undergo trials and tests and remain in our spiritual chemical composition. “But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved,”
Christ said in Matthew 24:13. By continuing to endure, we will be saved at the end. When God compares us to salt, He sees that quality of enduring to the end in us.
Salt is so durable that it is almost impossible to destroy the savor, or the “saltiness,” of it. But there is one way that salt can lose its savor: if it reacts chemically with another compound. If we think about this spiritually, we can lose our savor or saltiness if we allow another compound to intermingle with us spiritually. God commands us to come out of Babylon (Revelation 18:4), to stay away from the ways of this world. In James 4:7, God admonishes us to resist the devil. We also have to fight against our own selfish nature in order to retain our savor and endure.
Christ is telling us that we must not lose our savor, that we must not let some influence change us and cause us to quit. Many of God’s elect are going through severe tests and trials: health issues, work difficulties, family problems and more. It is a constant battle to keep the outside influences out, to avoid interacting with another spirit compound. By comparing us to salt, Christ is admonishing us to remain steadfast, to endure, and to retain the unchanged savor of God’s way of life.
Salt is a Symbol of Purity
Another reason Christ likened His disciples to salt is because of its physical quality of purity. Due to its purity, salt is used as a disinfectant. Germs cannot live in it. My grandmother brushed her teeth with salt as a substitute for toothpaste. It helps clean teeth and also works as an effective mouthwash due to its disinfectant qualities.
Christ used this analogy to show that His people are the only pure people in this world, because we alone are obeying God’s law and following His way of life (1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:3).
Do we see the need to be a spiritual disinfectant for this world? Sin, in a sense, is like a culture of spiritual germs and bacteria. We must wage war against sin just as a disinfectant fights germs and prevents them from multiplying. We must continue to work hard to leave no place for sin to thrive in our lives and use God’s Spirit to retain godly purity in our lives.
Salt Is Precious
Even though salt is much easier to obtain today, it is still a precious commodity. For where would we be without it? Many industries—and even our own bodies—would be completely unable to function without salt. And consider how bland our food would be without it!
Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a big, juicy steak. When it is brought to you, it is still sizzling on the platter. You take a bite, but something is wrong. It just doesn’t have much flavor. So, you pick up the saltshaker and sprinkle a tiny amount of salt on the steak. What a difference it makes!
Today, God’s people are sprinkled all over the Earth just like that salt you sprinkled on your steak. You didn’t use much, and you couldn’t even see it after it dissolved into the juices of the meat. But the difference in flavor was pronounced. It did the work, in that sense. By the same token there is a small, precious group that is called to do God’s Work, supporting His end-time apostle in fulfilling the commission given to him (Revelation 10:11). By doing the Work today, we are providing the world with a taste of hope that is not overwhelming, yet the flavor of our message is indeed pronounced.
Remember, Christ said many times that He spoke only as the Father directed (John 12:49). So, in effect, God the Father is saying to us, individually, You are the salt of the Earth. Christ sees that enduring quality in us; He sees purity and precious value.
Jesus Christ compares us to salt to inspire us to see that just as physical salt, even in small amounts, is valuable, useful and beneficial, we as spiritual salt are small in number, but we serve in many different ways to accomplish God’s great master plan!