In Matthew 5:13 we read, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet." What does Jesus mean about salt losing its flavor? I don't get it.

Guest response from David Berçot

Although most English translations read, if it loses its taste—or something to that affect—this is not what Jesus said. The original reads “If the salt becomes foolish." This stumped some ancient readers, just as it has modern ones. Yet Jesus' words become clear when we understand that the metaphor refers to people, not (literal) salt.

Whereas we are called to be salt—in distinctive Christian lifestyle as well as in our words (Col 4:6)—we lose our impact (saltiness) when we become foolish. Jesus speaks elsewhere in Matthew of such folly: In Matt 7:26, the foolish man hears Jesus' words but does not obey them—building his house on sand. And in Matt 25:12, the foolish virgins fail to prepare for the coming of the Bridegroom.

Origen (184-253 AD), a brilliant church leader who taught all around the Mediterranean world, supports this understanding of Matt 5:13: “If the reason in us sins and we do something foolish, then we must be fearful of that statement of the Savior which says, ‘You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt becomes foolish, it is of value for nothing except to be thrown out and trampled on by men.'" Homilies on Leviticus 1–16. (T. P. Halton, ed., G. W. Barkley, Trans.) (Vol. 83, p. 46).

How we live is vitally important. For a Christian not to live out the teachings of Jesus, which are found in the Sermon on the Mount, is foolish indeed.