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The Salt of the Earth

Scripture: Matthew 5:13, Job 6:6, 1 Chronicles 18:12
Date: 02/02/2013 
Christians should have a healing, preserving influence on others, to be the "salt of the earth".
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Note: This is an unedited, verbatim transcript of the live broadcast.

Our message today is a title that probably isn’t anything extravagant or very unusual you’d expect to hear in any Christian church: “The Salt of the Earth.” It’s based on that verse we just read and also the famous one in Matthew 5. Our scripture reading was from Mark. In Matthew 5, Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Salt is amazing. It’s a ubiquitous food item. It’s in almost everything. Some of you who are watching the sodium in your diet, you probably began to read labels, and you had no idea how many things had salt added to it. But though sometimes we’re cautious about that, you cannot live without salt. It is an essential to life.

I have here a couple of samples of salt, sodium chloride. How many of you have one of these in your house or something like it? Look at that! It’s a basic, isn’t it, in life? If you fly over the countryside, you will see trails out in the wilderness leading to a couple of things. You’ll see animal trails that, like a web, all point to sources of water, and you’ll also find that there are trails that go to places where they’re getting salt, because this is an essential in life for all of us to survive.

Something I thought that I’d share, I’m going to give you about 10 or 12 points about salt and why I think salt is so important, and we’ll elaborate on these a little bit as we go. Jesus evidently tells us that salt is something very important. What occurred to me for the first time this week, Jesus talks about “you are the salt of the earth” in Matthew, in Mark, and in Luke, and He says it differently in all three places, which leads me to believe that where Jesus traveled and wherever He preached, one of the things He often said was, “You are the salt of the earth.” Something else He said that was very important, in all three verses, if you cease to be salt, not only is it dangerous for the environment, we become useless and are cast out. Cast out, trampled under foot, in the way, in the dunghill, good for nothing—the terms that Jesus uses have to do with the terms for the lost, and so we need to know what He’s talking about when He says, “You are the salt of the earth.”

Salt is a crucial element for life. One thing that we know right away is salt has a preserving influence. Salt preserves. In Bible times, they would frequently rub salt into the different things like the fish and the meats to help it to last. It keeps things from decaying. We’re in a world that is filled with decay. Things given to themselves decompose. Salt has a preserving influence, and one of the things that preserves God’s truth in the world is Christians when they work together as salt.

Some examples of this in the Bible, if you look, for instance, in Genesis, you know the story of Abraham and Lot. When God told Abraham, “Shall I hide from you what I’m about to do? The wickedness of Sodom is come up before Me, and I’m on My way down there to deal with it,” Abraham remembers that his nephew Lot and his family are there, and he’s worried that they’ll be destroyed along with the wicked, and he said, “Far be it from the Lord of all the earth to destroy the righteous with the wicked,” and then Abraham begins to labor and negotiate with God, and he says in Genesis 18:26, “If you find fifty righteous in the city, would You spare it?” And God said, “If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for” the sake of the fifty. Abraham felt a little better, and then he thought, “The last time I was in Sodom, it didn’t look too good; I wonder if there are even fifty.” He says, “Lord, how about if there is five less than fifty, forty-five?” The Lord said, “If I find forty-five righteous, I’ll spare it.” Abraham then begins to worry. He says, “I don’t know of anyone beside my nephew. He said, “Lord, how about thirty?” He said, “Don’t be upset, but I just want to know, would you spare the city for thirty?” God said, “I’ll spare Sodom and Gomorrah and those cities if I could find thirty righteous there.” Thirty righteous—there’s hope that they will then diffuse their influence and preserve the place. Abraham says, “How about twenty?” God says, “Yes, I’ll spare the whole place for twenty.” Abraham says, “Look, please don’t be mad, but do you mind if I go a little farther? How about ten?” God said, “I’ll spare it all if there are ten in the place.” So even ten people in those sprawling cities of the plain. The Bible says they were watered like the garden of God before the catastrophe came. God said, “I’d spare it all because there would be hope that their influence would have a sanctifying influence and preserve the rest.” There’s still hope for the gospel to spread, but you reach a point where, like when God said in the days of Noah, you reach a critical mass of evil, where man’s hearts were only evil continually, and God said, “I will destroy man from the earth.” He saved Noah and his family, but the rest of the world was destroyed because there just weren’t enough believers to have a preserving influence. So it was destroyed.

Not only there in the Old Testament, in the New Testament it happens in families. You can read, for instance, in 1 Corinthians 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband; otherwise your children would be unclean, but now they are holy.” If you have one believer in a marriage, you are the salt in that family; you are to diffuse the elements of salt we’re going to talk about, and you’re going to have a preserving influence. The believer can preserve a marriage that otherwise would not survive, and it’s especially important for the children. Peter says something similar. 1 Peter 3, “Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won”—won what? Won to the Lord “by the conduct,” the behavior, “of [the wife], when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear.” So if we stop the message right here, here’s your answer. Christians, in being salt, are to have a sanctifying influence to win others to the Lord, whether it’s the wife winning an unbelieving husband, or a believing husband winning an unbelieving wife as they behold your behavior. Do people see us letting our light shine, and is our salt having a saving influence in the community?

Another interesting thing about salt is salt brings out flavor. You can read in the Bible. Job 6:6, “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” Eggs are sort of an abomination anyway, but if you just eat eggs without salt… I remember my mom used to put hardboiled eggs in my lunch, and I just got so tired of that, but there was always some salt put in there too because even the Bible says, “is there any flavor in the white of an egg?” It’s like tofu. Have you ever eaten plain tofu? How many of you remember that commercial…? I’ve got the lid on it. How many of you were salivating while I was doing that? Any of you remember they had a commercial years ago called Lay’s potato chips? “Nobody”—what’s the adage? “Nobody could eat just one,” and it had this old fellow sitting on a park bench, and there’s this kid eating a potato chip, and he said, “Sir, do you want one?” And he said, “Yeah, just one.” He takes one. Next thing you know, he takes the bag from the kid, because it’s hard to eat—. There’s something addictive about salt, where it makes you crave more. And if we’re Christians, and we’re having the influence we’re supposed to have in the society, people are going to want it.

You notice, you can’t smell salt, you don’t hear salt, you don’t even really see salt when it’s mixed into food, but it definitely makes a big difference. It can be tasted. Is your Christian experience—does it have tang to it? In the Scottish version of the Bible, it says, “If the salt has lost its tang.” I’m not talking about that orange-flavored breakfast drink. Tang. How many of you remember the old meaning of the word tang? It means its zip. We’re supposed to have that kind of influence, where if someone’s making some soup… You know what the difference is between good soup and bad soup? The amount of salt, the right amount, a pinch of salt can make just the biggest difference.

What does it mean when it says, “If salt has lost its saltiness” or its savor? Chemically, salt is a very stable—. Sodium chloride, 1000 years later, if you have a dry vessel of sodium chloride, it’s going to taste 100% salt. So what did Jesus mean when He said salt savor can be lost? How does salt lose its savor? Let me illustrate this. I have one more illustration up here. In Bible times, and this is very important. In Bible times, when they got their salt, they didn’t get it from the salt factories up in Saskatchewan where you get your Morton’s salt, and it’s all clean and purified. They used to carve it from the Salt Sea. The Dead Sea was a big salt flat. They’re still taking salt and minerals out of there today. They would carve it in blocks, but the problem was, because they were low spots, those blocks also had dust and seeds and other impurities and minerals in it, and they’d take the block, and they’d put it in a bag, like this, that water leaks through, but not that salt. They didn’t grind it up really fine the way we did because salt dilutes easily. While they were cooking their soup—they had their mutton stew they were making, the lady would take her string of salt, like a big tea bag, she’d dump it in a few times, she’d taste it, she’d dump it in a little more, and she’d taste it, and she’d hang it back up. Eventually, the only thing left in the bag was the minerals and the dust and the seeds and the impurities; all the salt was leached out. And when they put it in, it didn’t have any savor any more. What good was this? It was good for nothing, except it had just enough salt in it to kill anything you put it on in the garden, and so they just put it in the path, they put it in the dung pile. The leftovers from the salt bags were garbage. It was useless. So this just helps us understand when it talks about the salt losing its savor.

How could salt lose its savor? Through it being diluted or being polluted. Can we be diluted as Christians? I think I shared a message with you a little while ago about this corrupt pharmacist that realized there was this very expensive cancer medicine, and he could make more money by diluting it down 50/50 and selling more of it, and he did that with a lot of patients who didn’t get enough to heal them. They finally found out what he was doing, and he’s still in jail today. Many people died because he was diluting their crucial medicine for profit. People die when Christians have our salt diluted, because our salt is to have a preserving influence, and if we don’t have that ingredient, that sanctified salt, in our natures as Christians, we’re not doing the work in the community that God has called us to do. Amen? So savor can be lost. We don’t want to be just nominal Christians. We want to make a real difference in society.

Something else about salt, salt must be sprinkled. When the Bible tells us we are the salt of the earth, salt really doesn’t do any good when you eat it in a big block. Salt is to be diffused. How many of you have accidentally gotten too much salt before? I want you to fess up and be honest. Have you ever played a trick on your friends when you were a young, irresponsible kid or a teenager, and you loosened the lid of the salt bottle at the cafeteria of the school? Let me see. Come on. How many did that at least once? All right, I’m not alone. How many did it more than once? And you think it’s so funny when your friend goes to shake their salt on their food, and they take the salt shaker, and they go like this, and poosh, the whole thing falls out. Or what I would do, up at worker’s meeting, I’d sit down with John Lomacang. He’d go to get his drink. I’d take the salt lid off, I’d pour some in one spot of his food, and put it back on. All the other pastors would sit there and watch me. They would never tell John. They’re just as corrupt as I am, which shows you I didn’t outgrow this yet. And then it’s fun, you all sit there casually eating, enjoying your food, and you’re waiting for him to take that bite of the chop suey or potatoes, or whatever it was, that’s almost pure salt, and he gets it, and he goes… [vocalization]. All of this is really to say we like salt (what’s a pretzel without salt?), but we don’t like it all at one time. I’ve had to get after my kids before when they used to make those little oriental noodles. We’d get the vegetarian, the garden oriental pack, and Nathan would take the little packet of seasoning; he’d just be putting the seasoning—, and I thought, “Don’t do that! That’s too strong!”

We all crave salt a little bit, but normally salt altogether, it’s not good. It needs to be diffused. Does the Lord want Christians to clump together in church? You and I are not really being salt right now. We become salt when we leave and we spread our influence for Christ in the community. Does Christ need His church to be salt in the world today and in our communities?

I had another chart, America’s most Bible-minded cities, and what it did is it itemized cities, took about 100 cities in North America, it tested them for how much Bible reading they do and how much they know the Scriptures or believe the Scriptures, and it’s interesting, the most Bible-literate churches are all on the east side of the U.S.; most of them, as you would anticipate, are in the Bible Belt. You can go to the next slide there. You won’t be able to read the cities, but I thought it was interesting, (you can just take my word for it) among the most Bible-literate cities, you have Knoxville, Tennessee; Shreveport, Louisiana; Chattanooga, Tennessee ( I thought that was interesting); Birmingham, Alabama; Jackson; Springfield, Missouri. Among the most un-Biblical you have Providence, Rhode Island. Do you know how Providence, Rhode Island got its name? Because of a very godly man named Roger Williams who went in there. Religion was established. Freedom of religion and Christianity was very strong in Providence, and now they, and Connecticut, interestingly enough, and some of those very progressive cities on the East Coast are among the biblically most illiterate, and they don’t believe the Bible. So what are we going to do? Let’s all move to Chattanooga, right? Will we fulfill Jesus’ mission for us if we do that? Or does He want us to go where we can have an influence? I have great admiration for these Christians that move to dark counties and go places where there aren’t a lot of Christians and try to be salt and light in those communities. Salt needs to be sprinkled.

Sea water, 3% salt, you go to the coral reefs, they’re swarming with life. A little bit of salt in the ocean water can still sustain a lot of life. But you get too much salt in the water, what happens? You end up with a dead sea like the Salton Sea in Indio or the Dead Sea or Great Salt Lake in Utah there. In 1 Chronicles 18:12, it says, “Moreover Abishai the son of Zeruiah killed eighteen thousand Edomites in the Valley of Salt.” One of the saltiest valleys in the world is in the Bible. It is the saltiest valley. Zephaniah 2:9, “‘Therefore, as I live,’ says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, ‘Surely Moab shall be like Sodom, and the people of Ammon like Gomorrah—overrun with weeds and saltpits, and a perpetual desolation.” If you get Christians that all clump together in a Christian community, you end up with desolation. Now we all think, “Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a Christian town where you can be safe from crime and everybody loves everybody? Wouldn’t that be nice?” In heaven it’ll be nice, but here you end up with all kinds of problems. Healthiest Christians are the ones who are out there like Jesus intermingling with people to reach them with the truth. Salt is not supposed to clump.

Salt can sting. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Sometimes it helps you know you’re alive. You ever go into the ocean water? If you had any cuts or scrapes, when you went in you found out where they were. You ever get a paper cut and then pick up some popcorn? Unless you’re eating popcorn without salt, which is no good. Some of you are going to say, “Oh no, Doug, put Brewer’s yeast on it.” I know those of you who are eating Brewer’s yeast on your popcorn. It’s on your breath for about a week. I like it the old way, sorry. But salt can sting in the wounds because it actually has the ability to tell you there’s something wrong. Real Christians, if you’re being salt in your community, you will sometimes bring loving conviction to those around you. I’ve mentioned before that I play racquetball periodically with just a group of men from every stripe and type of humanity, and sometimes when a new guy comes in and joins us, men get wound up and someone misses a shot, or they’ll say things I can’t repeat in church, and one of them will say, “Brother Doug here is a pastor.” “Oh, oh, sorry.” It stings them a little bit. That’s all you have to say, and conversation changes. Why? When people know you’re a Christian, do you have some kind of a sanctifying influence on your environment? You should. If you’re shining, kind of like a river that runs through the desert, things grow around it.

Another important thing about salt, salt melts ice. That’s very important for us because Jesus said in the last days the love of many would grow cold. Matthew 24:12. You ever been back East where they salt the roads, and they even do it here sometimes, but not very often. It’s kind of hard on the roads, but it melts ice. Part of the reason that the oceans don’t melt any farther than they do is because salt water has a lower melting temperature than fresh water. Just a little salt, if you ever run out of antifreeze, it’s not really great for your radiator, but in an emergency, rather than have your engine block crack, you can put salt in your radiator and flush it out later. It’ll lower the freezing temperature of the water. Do you have the ability in your life? Do you melt icy hearts? Is there a warmth about you that as you interact with other people, that you take the chill off? Christians ought to be warm and loving people, right? Folks should be attracted to us in this icy cold world.

Colossians 4:6. Here’s another verse on that same subject. “Let your speech always be with grace,” Paul says, “seasoned with salt.” There should be something in our words where our words are seasoned with salt. In the world today you say, “That fellow has a salty vocabulary.” That’s not a good thing, right? The way we use that. But biblically, when you say “words seasoned with salt,” that was a good thing. You know how the Bible says a soft answer turns away wrath? We should have that—that grace in our speech. Believers in Christ should have a warm, purifying influence. Sometimes we rescue conversation when it’s going the wrong direction—grace in our words.

Salt creates thirst. If we’re being salt, then we ought to have people thirsting for what we have. Of course, salt makes you want water, and salt also prevents dehydration, but it can make you thirsty. Remember when Jesus talked to the woman at the well? What did He do in His conversation with her? He created through His conversation a desire for her to want the water He was offering. She became thirsty. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness.” We ought to be creating that thirst in others. The woman at the well said, “Sir” (this is John 4:15), “give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”

Salt not only creates thirst, but it helps us retain water. So when Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth,” there are certain essentials in life, water being one of them; bread being one of them; salt is another one. Christ said that we are to be mines of salt, so to speak.

Something else I think is beautiful about salt, salt has healing properties. It even says this in the Bible. Ezekiel 16:4, God is talking about the birth of Israel as a nation. When He found them they were a nation of slaves. He said, “As for your nativity, on the day you were born your navel cord was not cut, nor were you washed in water to cleanse you; you were not rubbed with salt,” and you might be thinking, “Rubbing a baby with salt! What were they going to do? Eat the baby?” No! They did that for healing properties. Most of our bodies are water, and a percentage of that water is salt. For instance, your tears are salty. There’s something healing in the salt water—in those fluids. Even the histamine in your body, it has salt in it. And they knew that. Salt in a wound can help work as an antiseptic property.

The Bible also tells us that salt was connected with every sacrifice. Salt was to be connected with every sacrifice. Romans 12:1, 2, the Bible tells us, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice.” You read there in the Old Testament, Leviticus 2:13, “Every offering of your grain offering you shall season with salt; you shall not allow the salt of the covenant of your God to be lacking from your grain offering. With all your offerings you shall offer salt.” Why? The same reason you are not to have leaven in the bread when you have the communion service, the same reason the grape juice was to be unfermented, the other offerings were to be salted because of the preserving influence. God did not want decay in the relationship. The world is naturally putrefying. The world naturally has decay, and God wants to prevent that, and so we are to have salt.

Salt that just stays buried underground doesn’t do much. It needs to be brought up and then sprinkled, and God wants you and me to be sprinkling the teachings and the influence and the life of Christ in our society. It’ll have a saving influence. It’s pretty sad when you consider that a growing number of people in the world are marking down “Religion—none.” How sad. God wants us to be a Via Salaria—a salt road to the world to spread this influence. We need to have that influence in our lives. Are you being salt? Are you being salt in your marriage, in your family? Are you being a positive influence for Christ with your children, where you work, with the people you meet, whether it’s in the store or just on the street as you travel? Do you let people know that you’re a Christian? Do they see there’s something different about you? Are you having a healing, preserving influence, a purifying effect? If you have the Spirit of Christ in you, that’s what you’ll be doing in the world. You and I will be the savor of life unto life. I want to be a Christian, don’t you?

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