Today's podcast (7 mins) sheds light on an otherwise perplexing concept (salt losing its flavor).
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“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt becomes foolish, how will it be salted? It is thereafter good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men” (Matthew 5:13).
The next 2 podcasts are on salt and light—the stuff of Christian discipleship.
Flavor, or function?
- Whereas in modern times we usually associate salt with taste (something that enhances flavor), it was different in ancient times.
- Back then salt was more functional. It was a common preservative, and even served as a disinfectant for wounds. In other words, salt was necessary for everyday life.
How are we to be salt?
- Christians preserve the world through the power of their example, faith, outreach, and prayer.
- In the later 300s, John Chrysostom writes, “For this is the nature of salt, which is what Jesus wants us to be. For salt not only preserves itself, but it also preserves all other objects with which it comes into contact.” Homilies on Matthew 18.2.
Salt becoming "foolish"?
- Most English translations read, if it loses its saltiness / taste. Yet the original reads “if the salt becomes foolish" (Gk. mōranthēi—from mōraíno).
- The metaphor refers to people, not literal salt.
- Origen, writing in the first half of the 200s, explains: “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.
- Paul uses this same word (emōránthēsan) when describing how humans have turned away from God (Rom 1:21-24).
- Jesus used a form of the same word (mōrōi) in describing the foolish one “who hears these sayings of mine and does not do them”—building his house on sand (Matt 7:26)—and again in Matt 25:1-12, in describing the five foolish (mōraí) virgins.
- So too, if we, the salt, become foolish, then Jesus cannot use us. We are not fit for anything but to be cast out and “trampled underfoot by men” (Matt 5:13). (See the porcine / canine trampling of Matt 7:6, again not literal, but metaphorical and referring to people.)
- In short, the Lord calls us not to lose our identity—our Christian distinctiveness. So let's not make "discipleship" about attending meetings and counting conversions. It’s our spiritual influence, flowing from a holy and godly lifestyle.
- Let's be spiritually wise—not foolish.
- Let's also be conversationally strategic—and gracious (Col 4:6).