You are the salt of the earth. 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 underfoot.
You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
I’ve always enjoyed cooking, but during lockdown it’s surprisingly become something I’ve come to love and really look forward to. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy ordering takeout once or twice a week – but I’ve found cooking has become a way for me to turn off the noise of the day, take a deep breath, put on a podcast or music, and get my creative juices flowing. It’s become a fun, therapeutic choose-your-own adventure as I flip through my different cookbooks, challenging myself to try new recipes, using up what’s in the fridge and doing my best to make something nourishing and delicious for my husband and myself.
I change up the dishes depending on my mood and what’s in season, but I always find myself reaching for the same thing no matter what I make: salt. And not just any salt – Maldon Salt. It’s oh so fancy and worth every penny! This little flakey magical ingredient comes from a 140 year old family business in a tiny seaside town in Essex, England, and it is beloved by humble homecooks like me to top celebrity chefs around the world. It works with pretty much anything & everything – savory or sweet, from meat to ice cream, it’s versatile and packs a punch with just a pinch.
Maldon salt enhances the flavor of whatever I use it in, bringing out something different and unique in each dish. I thought about this as I was reading the passage above, where Jesus calls us the salt of the earth. I think Jesus also appreciated a good homecooked meal as he was consistently taking time to stop and enjoy food with friends and strangers alike.
In ancient times salt was an essential, powerful and versatile thing. The crowd Jesus was speaking to would have thought about how salt not only brought out the flavors in their food, but also preserved it. There was no refrigeration so it was the best way to keep things from going rotten. Jesus was essentially saying that being “salt of the earth” meant we have the ability to enhance the world around us and preserve what God has called good, and that includes people! He was reminding us as followers of Jesus we have the power to impact and influence everyone we meet.
These enhancing and preserving properties meant salt also had incredible value, it was sometimes even used as currency in exchange for silver! This is another reason why Jesus’ words were so powerful because, by saying we are salt, he was declaring to every person there that they had inherent value. Jesus was affirming them as precious and worthy children of God, and he continues to speak that over us as we read his words today. He was not naming something we do, but it’s who we are.
The Old Testament even describes a “covenant of salt” between God and his people. “All the sacred gifts that the Israelites set aside for God I give to you, to your sons, and to the daughters that are with you, as a due for all time. It shall be an everlasting covenant of salt before God for you and for your offspring as well.” Num. 18:19
Jewish commentaries suggest it’s a reference to salt’s preservative qualities and how they would salt their sacrificial offerings to God. It is a reminder that when we give our lives to Him we enter into a lasting covenant that will never deteriorate, a promise that will never be broken.
Jesus goes on to talk about how if salt loses its saltiness then it’s rendered useless and trampled underfoot. He’s saying as followers our lives should illustrate this covenantal promise, enhancing and exemplifying the love and goodness of God on this earth. Otherwise, if we are not living this way then we can lose our effectiveness and witness in the world. When too much salt is trampled into the soil it inhibits vegetation, it takes too much water from the root and the plant withers and dies. So our saltiness is a responsibility, we have the power to enhance life for ourselves and others, or in our unhealth we can also hinder and destroy growth.
The same can be said of our light! In that same passage Jesus also calls us the light of the world. If we let it our light shine brightly and boldly we illuminate the path for ourselves and fellow travelers along the way. However, if we attempt to hide it or extinguish our light we can darken our own path and the paths of others too.
A little bit of salt can bring a dish alive and make a big difference, just as one lamp can light up a whole room. As we follow the way of Jesus it should make a difference and enhance our relationships, our homes, workplace, churches and communities. I pray we continue to claim and embody our identity as salt of the earth and light to the world, remembering we are all made in the image of God with inherent value and worth. And may we boldly call out the salt and light in each other too.
Written by Lauren Wallis | Impact Director and Social Media Manager
Bonus! I love reading this passage in the MSG translation too. Are there any parts that stand out more as you read this version?
Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven. – Matthew 5:13-16