Focus Scripture:Matthew 5:13
"Like the salt of the ocean, not the dead sea."
"There's no seasoning in this, no salt."
"This needs salt."
I was watching Americas Worst Cooks last night. You could certainly make a game out of how many times salt is mentioned in that show. At one point, the cooks were supposed to dredge chicken in flour and one woman used salt instead. Not surprisingly, her meal was inedible. I remember once when I misread a recipe and misread tablespoon for teaspoon--I made the saltiest chocolate frosting in history. Yech! Salt is critical to good cooking. We use it to rub on steaks and other meats before cooking to give them flavor. We flavor vegetables and broths, and, frankly, nearly everything else. It brings all the flavors alive. As important as salt is for flavor, doctors warn us that too much salt is bad for our blood pressure. We get conflicting reports on salt.
But more importantly, we don't understand it the way people in Jesus' time would have. Thanks to modern refrigeration, we do not use salt as a preservative the way they did. In Jesus' time sale was used to preserve food and to purify offerings. Salt was added to grain offerings that were brought to the temple. As a result, salt was a metaphor for wisdom or that which could stop evil like salt would stop rot or spoilage. (Think of how salt is still used to cure ham, for example.) To say that those who learn from and follow Jesus are the salt of the earth is to say that his followers are the ones that stop the spread of evil, the spread of rot in the world.
Then Jesus says something curious, at least to me. He talks about salt losing its saltiness. How can salt ever lose its saltiness? It's not like a spice where the oils dry out and the flavor fades. It is a crystal. It's form is pure. So how does it lose it's saltiness?
By being cut with other things. Add enough sugar and other spices to your steak rub and you will lose the effectiveness of the salt. If there are too many impurities in your salt, it will not flavor your food or serve its purpose any more. And that is what Jesus is warning us against. Don't get distracted. Don't hide what Jesus has taught us under a lot of other things. I can think of churches that worry about the style of the choir robes, of what music style is the best, or the carpet color or whether the youth are texting during service, rather than focusing on what Jesus teaches us. When we do that, we are diluting our saltiness.
Giver of all life, keep us ever focused on what is important. Help us be the salt for the earth, sharing your words and your wisdom with a world in need. Amen.