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You Are the Salt of the Earth

For several months now, we have been wandering through the words of Jesus we tend to call The Beatitudes with the desire to make them part of our lives. Our Bibles often make a break after verse 12 of Matthew's gospel—a new paragraph, a new heading—as if Jesus is changing his focus to something different, but I wonder now if  he is just beginning to unpack the practical outworking of what he has shared.

This is the place where we stand: the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, those how hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, and the persecuted. How, then, Jesus, do you want us to show up in our world?

“You are the salt of the earth,” he announces. Not you will be when you get your act together, but a positive, present-tense statement of fact—“you are”.  What then does it mean to be salt?

When we think of salt, we usually first think of flavoring food.

My husband is on a low-salt diet.

Did you ever try salt-free peanut butter? Yuck! And, as a good Scots woman, I eat my oatmeal with salt rather than sugar—and woe betide if I add too little salt to that! When food has the right amount of seasoning, you want to have more. Look at how we eat our way through a bag of chips! It is the salt that keeps us wanting more! There are foods you can eat without adding salt, but most foods just taste better with the addition of salt.

Eugene Peterson translates Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: 13: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth.” Don’t you love that?

How then can you and I bring out the God-flavors of this earth? I wonder if it is by living out the presence of God with us in our ordinary everyday lives. Can we walk in our world as Jesus walked in his? Remember how the crowds gathered, how they hung on his words, how they experienced something different through being with Him. Does that sound like an impossible task? Can we recognize our need for Him as we seek to follow Him—to be merciful, to be a peacemaker, to be truly caring and other-centered, to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice? Just you being you; just me being me, authentically being present to whoever is part of each day! Can we make the lives of others better just through being with us?

Matthew goes on to say, “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.” Matthew 5:14 (See also Luke 14:34,35)

As I looked up salt losing its saltiness, it seems that does not usually happen. So, why, I wonder, did Jesus emphasize this idea? If our being salt means that the world gets to taste God’s presence and love by being in our presence, loved and cared for by us, what would losing our saltiness look like? I wonder if it is those times when we walk through our days on autopilot, focused on the “tyranny of the urgent”, stressing about all that must be done, unaware of the needs of those around us? Is the invitation of Jesus here to live in awareness of who we are and the gift we have to offer to the world? Could our lives be enhanced and made more meaningful by the knowledge that who we are and how we show up is important, even in the small things that make up most of our days?

Paul in his letter to the Christians at Colossae, encourages them with these words: “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 Someone once suggested to me the idea that this meant we should always speak in a way that lifted a person a little higher than where they were. Too little salt and the food is bland; conversation also can be meaningless. Too much salt makes the food unpalatable; too much lofty sharing of how a person should be living tends to lead to rejection of what we are saying. Consider what the person you are talking to needs and share your life and thoughts accordingly.


And Paul adds to this thought as he wrote to the Christians at Ephesus: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

And finally, Mark adds to Jesus’ words by saying, “Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:50

Walk in your world today with confidence, knowing God is with you and that He has called you to be salt---to change the experience of each person you meet with the love you share. Go and have fun!

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