You are the salt of the earth, but if the 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.
After declaring to his disciples that they are the salt of the earth, Jesus raises the issue of unsalty salt. In nature, real salt cannot lose its saltiness. While natural salt and sea salt will last forever, common table salt may not. Common table salt has certain chemicals added to prevent it from caking up. According to one website, these added chemicals are what can reduce the shelf life of common table salt to about five years.
Unfortunately, in the kingdom of God, it is possible for the heavenly salt of the earth to lose its flavor. Why else would Jesus have raised the issue? I hate to say this, but the truth is that like common table salt, we are not pure salt. We have an ingredient in our makeup that causes degeneration. This causes us to lose our salty flavor. That ingredient is sin. I hate to say this too, but the ingredient of sin will be with us as long as we live on this earth in this age.
But there is hope in the gospel. In Christ, God graciously spares us from having to pay the penalty for sin when we believe that Jesus paid the death penalty for our sin on the cross. In his resurrected life, he recreates us and give us the presence and power of the Holy Spirit to help us progressively overcome the power of sin in our lives here on earth. When he returns, he will give his followers brand-new, everlasting bodies, at which time he will liberate us from the very presence of sin forever.
Fortunately, we are not abandoned and helpless in all of this. We can fight against this process of degeneration and its resulting loss of the salty flavor of the kingdom through repentance from and confession of our sins. We can fight against this process by remembering the gospel, by consciously putting our faith in it. Finally, we can fight against the degenerating power of sin by continually surrendering our lives to the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit.
So, for example, instead of recognizing my spiritual poverty and humbly mourning over it, I may become self-righteous and proud of the fact that I’m so “spiritual.” Rather that hungering and thirsting for righteousness, I might find myself chasing after things than don’t really matter in the long run. Rather than showing mercy to people I might become critical, or judgmental. I might find myself thinking that I’m morally and spiritually superior to other people.
All these things and more can start the process of degeneration, which in turn causes us to lose the spiritual saltiness that Jesus wants us to have. No one likes to be around religious people who have the negative kind of spiritual character traits that I’ve listed above. Jesus understand this. Jesus goes so far as to say that those who become unsalty salt are actually good-for-nothing, except to be the carpet for other people to walk on.
I think that we all find ourselves in the condition of unsaltiness from time to time. Fortunately for us, God is good and merciful, and his steadfast love endures forever, as the psalmists love to remind us. If we should find ourselves in the condition of losing our heavenly flavor, we can fight against this process by practicing the spiritual disciplines of repentance, confession, and surrender.
I don’t know about you, but the disciplines of repentance, confession, and surrender are a daily necessity for me. I need daily cleansing from the presence and power of sin. I also need to surrender to the power of the Holy Spirit on a daily basis. This daily necessity is not at all about having the need to be saved again. Rather, it’s like this: any relationship, regular communication is necessary to keep the relationship vital and alive. This is also true with regard to our relationship with God. Sin can get in the way of our relationship with God. When it does, we must repent of it, confess it, and pray that the power of the Holy Spirit will fill us.
We can never live out our role as the salt of the earth apart from the supernatural, life-changing power of the Holy Spirit working in us and through us. God is always working in the world around us. We must consciously and intentionally surrender ourselves to his power. I do this daily, and throughout each day, by praying and applying the words of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples—especially the first two requests.
Our Father, who are in heaven,
Hallowed by Thy Name.
Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
It may be difficult to believe, but Jesus said it, so it has to be true—believe it; live it.
You are the salt of the earth…
Hughes, R. Kent, and Douglas Sean ODonnell. Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth. Crossway Books, 2013.