When we give little credence to a statement, we say we’re “taking it with a grain of salt.” How appropriate, because if anything in the vast array of foodstuffs gets little consideration, it’s salt. It’s a condiment without a compliment.
We find all manner of saltshakers, but that’s for decorative purposes, not because we hold salt in high esteem. This time of year we can find turkey and pilgrim saltshakers, as well as Santa Clauses, snowmen and all things Christmas. But salt remains the Rodney Dangerfield of the seasoning world: It gets no respect.
When was the last time you agonized over what kind of salt to get? When I was younger I was a bit of a salt-aholic. I’d shake salt on anything even before I tasted it – soup, hamburgers, French fries, vegetables, it didn’t matter. I just liked the instant taste of salt. Then I learned too much salt might have detrimental effects, like raising blood pressure, so I elected not to salt away as I’d done previously. Much to my surprise, when I stopping adding salt, I discovered I could taste the salt already in the food.
All that said, salt still seems greatly underestimated and could stand better public relations treatment. Consider its uses: Immediately we think of adding or enhancing the flavor of food. But it does a lot more. For instance, being a preservative. In pioneer days – and even today, in areas where refrigeration isn’t available – salt is often used to preserve meat and prevent spoiling.
Entering the winter months, we’ll soon be reminded of how salt can melt snow and ice. It’s excellent for clearing driveways and sidewalks, as well as highways. Here is the South, when public works departments don’t plan ahead and salt the roads when winter storms are forecast, traveling becomes treacherous.
And there’s one other function of salt, although not nearly as desirable. It’s when salt gets into an open wound. If you’ve ever done that, it definitely stings.
Interestingly, the Bible often uses salt as a metaphor. In the Old Testament we read about Lot’s wife, who disobediently looked back at the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah being destroyed, then turned into a pillar of salt. She might have become the original Morton Salt girl.
Typically, however, the Scriptures apply the salt analogy to believers more positively. For instance, Jesus told His followers, ”Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again. Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50). What’s that supposed to mean?
In another passage, perhaps elaborating on the same discussion, Jesus explained, “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 by men” (Matthew 5:13).
We sometimes hear of people described as “the salt of the earth,” meaning they represent the best and noblest elements of society. In the same way, Jesus was instructing His followers to display the highest, most desirable qualities of humanity.
The way we conduct our lives, for instance, can make life more appealing – like salt. Rather than being “thrown out and trampled,” disciples of Christ should reflect characteristics others enjoy being around. Galatians 5:22-23 describes “the fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” Since traits like these seem in short supply, who wouldn’t want to hang out with “salty” people like this?
Many people today believe the world is not getting better but worse, spiraling into violence, hatred, selfishness and hopelessness. Again, as “salt” we can work to help in preserving qualities like compassion, generosity, selflessness, peacefulness, love and genuine hope.
For those resisting the truth of Jesus Christ as declared in the Bible, our task is not to coerce, argue or oppose angrily, but as “salt” to live in such a way that hearts grown spiritually cold become warmed and melted. In 1 Peter 3:15, Jesus’ followers are told how to do this: “Always be prepared to give an answer (make a defense) to everyone who ask you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” In other words, express our faith in Christ in an engaging, tasteful manner.
That being said, we must acknowledge the other aspect of salt. Mere mention of the name Jesus incites great animosity among some people otherwise touting the virtues of “tolerance.” We should not be surprised, because like salt in a wound, “Jesus” often brings to the surface old hurts and pain that sadly were inflicted in the name of Christ. While the Bible calls Jesus “the name above all names” (Philippians 2:9), it also describes Him as “a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall” (1 Peter 2:8).