“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)
Having just finished teaching on eight characteristics of one of His disciples, Jesus now explains how someone who possesses and exhibits those characteristics function in the world. Firstly, they are the salt of the earth. Tomorrow, we’ll read that they are also light.
In summary, being salt (and light) means that we who are God’s children through faith [John 1:12, 3:3] have influence in the world. By definition, an influence must be different from that which surrounds it. As God’s witnesses on this earth, it is primarily (although not exclusively) through us that the world comes to see and know God.
This is a great responsibility born out of the blessings described in the Beatitudes [Matthew 5:3-12]. God’s blessings are not to be kept to ourselves, but are to be spread to others.
One of the many attributes of salt is that it is a preservative. It slows down decay. Almost any packaged food in a grocery store will be salt-laden to prevent it from going bad while it is shipped to the store and while it sits on the store shelf. In a very similar way, Christians preserve what is good in the world.
The world is corrupted by sin and is decaying. Despite what man thinks, the world can never be made better. It will only get worse as time goes on as evil accumulates [2 Timothy 3:13]. We think that our increased knowledge and accomplishments over the centuries indicate progress. But really, they only allow us to express our depravity in new and more efficient ways. Our so-called advancements (for example, technology) are actually fueling our decline.
God’s people are the only way to retard the increased corruption, hate, and immorality we see in the world. But as the eighth beatitude taught us, such people will be despised by the world and even persecuted [Matthew 5:10-12].
Moreover, the world believes that removing Jesus will make things better. Certainly we can look around us and see that this is not true. As we have removed Jesus from society over the past several decades life has clearly gotten worse, not better. In fact, God tells us that when His believers are removed from the earth at the rapture, it will take less than seven years for the world to collapse into total depravity.
Christians are a preserving force on this earth. We stand up for morality and goodness. Our presence prevents the planet from degenerating even faster than it would otherwise.
Jesus’ comment about salt losing its taste and being thrown out seems to reference Christians who allow the world to influence them rather than the other way around. Salt can never really lose its saltiness. But its function can be diminished if it is contaminated with other substances. So too will a Christian lose their influence if they allow themselves to become too much like the world around them.
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