Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
Jesus warned the disciples of the importance of staying “salty”. Salt in that day was used as a preservative, a heat enhancer and also as a seasoning. As I read this again on Easter Sunday, I was reading it through the lens of our recently formed Spiritual Formation Small Group context and began to think of salt.
Remembering my days in the lab as a chemist, I know that salt (NaCl) is a very stable compound. However, in water, the compound will dissociate into the two elements leaving them free to attach to other elements that could be present. For example, if you have a solution of salt in water and a little sulfuric acid (battery acid) is added, the end result would be sodium sulfate instead of sodium chloride and hydrochloric acid. So now, the sodium chloride is no longer present and it has certainly lost its “saltiness” because its very essence has been changed by its environment. Get the picture.
Looking at a more practical way that salt loses its saltiness is found in Adam Clarke’s Commentary on Matthew 5:13
“But if the salt have lost his savour” : That this is possible in the land of Judea, we have proof from Mr. Maundrell, who, describing the Valley of Salt, speaks thus: “Along, on one side of the valley, toward Gibul, there is a small precipice about two men’s lengths, occasioned by the continual taking away of the salt; and, in this, you may see how the veins of it lie. I broke a piece of it, of which that part that was exposed to the rain, sun, and air, though it had the sparks and particles of salt, YET IT HAD PERFECTLY LOST ITS SAVOUR: the inner part, which was connected to the rock, retained its savour, as I found by proof.” See his Trav., 5th edit., last page. A preacher, or private Christian, who has lost the life of Christ, and the witness of his Spirit, out of his soul, may be likened to this salt. He may have the sparks and glittering particles of true wisdom, but without its unction or comfort. Only that which is connected with the rock, the soul that is in union with Christ Jesus by the Holy Spirit, can preserve its savour, and be instrumental of good to others.
What a beautiful picture of the importance of staying close to our source of life; our source of saltiness. When we place ourselves into environments that make us vulnerable, we can “dissociate” away from our life source and be open prey for the enemy. And when we allow ourselves to be exposed to the ways of the world, our saltiness can become diminished unless we remain intact with Him. This is why we are told in Proverbs 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. We guard our hearts by “doing” things that keep us connected to our life source.
This may be offensive for some to think that we have to “do” something. This happens when we don’t understand that salvation is more than just forgiveness and that in the early church, spiritual disciplines were a part of the life of the disciples of Jesus. Why was this so? Because Jesus Himself set the example. He spent time in prayer. He spent time in solitude. He spent time in the word of God. He spent time in fasting, serving, giving. All of these are the same disciplines that we today must have present in our life to guard the “saltiness” that we need to be that witness in today’s culture. I love what D.G. Kehl says in “Practicing the Art of Self –Discipline” “True spiritual self-discipline holds believers in bounds but never in bonds; its effect is to enlarge, expand and liberate.”
It is interesting that in Matthew’s gospel that Jesus followed the illustration of being salt with that of being light. Saltiness is the inner quality or character that is present in His disciples. Light is our outward expression of that character to the world and what will change the world. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says in “Faith: Tried and Triumphant” “How often do we hear about the disciplines of the Christian life these days? How often do we talk about it? How often is it really to be found at the heart of our evangelical living? There was a time in the Christian church when this was at the very center, and it is, I profoundly believe because of our neglect of this discipline that the church is in her present position. Indeed, I see no hope whatsoever of any true revival and reawakening until we return to it?” We hear so much about revival but can we truly have it if we have lost our saltiness? And how brightly can that light really shine?
As we begin our journey into Christian Spiritual Formation we are looking at ways that we can partner with the Holy Spirit and do our part in keeping that condition of “saltiness” present in our life. As we practice our God given means to Godliness, we will become a catalyst for change in our culture and in the world. Without these disciplines, we are much like the Pharisees who Jesus called white washed tombs. They looked good on the outside, but empty on the inside.
Let the journey begin!