“Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use
either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.” (Luke 14:34-35)
“You are the salt of the earth.” I’ve always struggled with this word from Jesus. Not because I don’t want it to be true, but because it never seemed to make sense to me. Do we make people taste better? That’s why I use salt on my food. I didn’t appreciate Jesus’ words until recently when I learned what salt was used for in the ancient world.
In Jesus’ day, salt was a bit different from our common table salt and was mainly used as a fertilizer to help dry soil retain its moisture. It also doubled as a preservative for manure piles to prevent them from becoming useless as fertilizer. This makes good sense considering Jesus lived in an agricultural society in an arid climate where the soil was not conducive for growing crops. It also helps us understand Jesus’ words in Luke 14:34-35, “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”
So what’s the point? Jesus is actually saying, “You are the fertilizer—the manure!—of the earth.” He’s saying that for us to have influence in the world, we need to infiltrate the places where nothing seems to grow. As salt (and light, too), we bring life and flourishing to the arid places, those sectors of society that are barren, rotting, and dead. We don’t have to look far for those places—they are all around us in broken relationships, financial problems, addictions, abuse, injustice, and blatant rejection of the gospel. If we are not doing this, Jesus says, we are of no use.
You might be asking, What in the world does this have to do with Christmas?! It has everything to do with Christmas. Jesus is not calling us to do something he himself did not do. His advent was into this world, this dry soil and decaying manure pile where nothing grew. And he brought life and flourishing. The call to follow him is to be his fertilizer so that, in his grace, he might bring bountiful and lasting growth to a world that desperately needs him.
Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Luke 14:34-35 and Matthew 5:1-16
- Where is God calling you to go to be salt and light?
- How are you tempted to avoid the arid places for fear of being stained by them? (You may consider reading 1 Cor. 9:19-23 for more on this.)
- How do the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12) help you understand what being salt and light in this world should look like?
- Who did God use to lead you to Jesus in the midst of your own brokenness? How can you imitate them?