salty, adj. SAL-tee: tasting strongly of salt, or slang: tough, aggressive, getting annoyed out of proportion to the problem; example: “I don’t know why he was so salty about that referee’s call on the play.” or “You don’t have to get so salty about changing your plans.”
Jesus said, ““You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” -Mt. 5:13
I have never heard of salt becoming flavorless. Have you? In the spirit of scientific inquiry, I decided to find the oldest salt I could get hold of and taste it, to see if there was any loss of flavor. I got up from my desk and went down the hall to the church kitchen, where I found a salt shaker with the expiration date 08-18-13. Seven years out-of-date salt seemed good enough for this experiment, so I shook a bit into a bowl. It looked like salt. Cautiously, I tasted it. It tasted like… salt.
Refined salt, the kind we buy at the grocery store, well, it turns out that it can’t go bad sitting in a container in a cupboard. The chemical makeup of pure salt, aka sodium chloride, is quite stable. There is a catch, however:
The kind of salt Jesus and his disciples used wasn’t Morton Iodized- it was impure, mixed with other minerals in big chunks rather than the finely ground stuff we sprinkle on our soup. That kind of salt, if exposed to humidity, like the climate around the Sea of Galilee, could lose its saltiness: the sodium chloride would evaporate into the moist, warm air, leaving behind a flavorless lump.
We aren’t flavorless lumps, right? No, of course not! Jesus says we are the salt, and so that is what we are. Do not worry that you are going to be thrown out and trampled underfoot: you are the salt of the earth.
As I was reminded when I tasted that out-of-date but not out-of-flavor salt, though, salt on its own is, well, gross. Nobody sits down for dinner and eats a plate full of salt. Yuck! We do not want to be too salty. This is especially true in the slang sense of the word: followers of Jesus shouldn’t be aggressive or easily annoyed, getting salty every time something doesn’t go our way. No, salt is at its best when it adds to the flavor of something out, when it enhances and emboldens good food that’s already there.
We followers of Jesus are salt for the earth. When we are in just the right balance, our thoughts, words, and actions enhance the words and actions of Jesus Christ, bringing life to the world. If there’s too much of us, Jesus can be drowned out by our saltiness. If there’s too little of us, Jesus can seem bland.
Now before you get worried about just how much salt is the right amount of salt, let me remind you of a couple of things: God created a diverse world. Some people like a lot of salt. Some like just a little. That’s okay. In Jesus Christ, you are refined and pure salt, just enough as he has made you. When we follow his call, our saltiness enhances everything we do.
Jesus, I thank you for making me salt of the earth. Help me to use my saltiness for your service and glory. Amen.