They didn’t put any salt in their bread. I have complained for years about that. My mom finally discovered that they had a salt shortage once and used the salt on their meats instead of in their bread and have been making bread without it ever since. So I get it but I do not like it.
See, salt is an amazing rock. It always has been. We know that around 6000BC the Chinese were harvesting salt. Ever heard the term “worth his salt”— salt was so valuable that sometimes Roman soldiers were paid in salt. Taxes on salt were used to regulate economies. Salt was also destructive. When Rome defeated the city of Carthage, for the third and final time, they leveled the city and sowed the ground with salt so that nothing would ever be able to grow there again.
Throughout history, the rising and falling of nations has involved salt.
The idea of the drastic importance of salt might be something foreign to us but it goes back a long way. In fact, in the book of Numbers, the writer tells us that God’s covenant with his people was a “covenant of salt”. When a traveler would happen upon a Bedouin, the chief of the tribe would be handed the travelers precious goods and he would hand over salt to signify that he was no responsible for the safety and well-being of the traveler. When Egyptian President Sadat first met with Israel Prime Minister Begin, they exchanged bread and salt as a sign of covenant and good faith.
And it’s in this setting that we come to the Sermon on the Mount and find that Jesus calls us the salt of the earth. Why would he do that?
It’s interesting to see that salt can’t be eaten alone. Ever taken a big spoonful of salt? Not pleasant. Salt is a flavor enhancer. In the right proportion, it makes things better. Anyone who has lived in the north also knows what salt will do to an icy road. It will melt away the danger and make it safer. And salt can change a thing into something else. It can turn a cucumber into a pickle and raw meat into edible jerky.
Salt is amazing. Salt is important.
I heard once something I don’t ever want to forget—“ If the meat is rotten, it’s not the fault of the meat for spoiling, it’s the fault of the salt for not preserving it.”
I think this is the role of the Church. I think this is what Christ was telling us when he called us salt. We are not called to be totally separate from this world but to show that the danger has been melted away, to help transform it from one thing into another.
But we should also look for signs that our salt has lost its flavor. And when we find that, we shouldn’t be afraid to throw it out and re-salt ourselves. And we should never let our salt be destructive. It should never be used to turned people away from God to such an extent that it would be almost impossible for them to let the love of God regrow in their field.
Be salt. Be the salt of the earth.