Are You Worth Your Salt?

Salt used to be worth a lot.  The phrase “Is he worth his salt?” was used during a time when salt was harder to come by and even used as currency.  The word “salary” comes from the Latin word for salt.  Once-upon-a-time, Roman soldiers were even paid in salt because it was so valuable.  Why?

Salt is naturally good at food preservation. Before the days of refrigeration, canning, and unnatural preservatives, salt was a natural superstar on the food preservation circuit. The practice of using salt to preserve food, especially meat, began as early as about 3,000 B.C. in Egypt. Back then, if you wanted to keep the deer meat eatable that your husband just speared, for longer than a day, then salt was of use. We still use salt today to preserve food. If you ever wondered why food coming out of a can tasted so salty, now you know. Salt keeps things from rotting as fast as it would if left without the aid of sodium chloride’s special abilities.

Salt is also good at tasting salty. Enter table salt. The salt shaker is one of my wife’s best friends. She can’t get enough. She thinks that salty chips need more salt. Now Luke has picked up the sodium habit. He thinks it’s cool to shake salt on stuff, especially on the salsa at El Nopal Mexican Restaurant. I’m not convinced that he likes salt more than just using the salt shaker though.

Salt is one of humanities main flavors. We use it to bring out flavor in just about any food. Foods that we wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole become delicious when salt is applied. Most all of your favorite foods would fall quickly off your list without salt’s presence. If you don’t believe me, ask your mother to make you your favorite casserole without the presence of salt and see if you can get it to go down.

Salt is good for what it was made to do. If you take away salt’s distinctive qualities and it’s no longer salt. What is salt without a salty taste and the ability to preserve? Nothing. Well, it’s something, but it’s not salt and it wouldn’t be good for anything else, except maybe dissolving snails and making our roadways safer on an icy day. But you know what I mean. Once salt ceases to be salt you would just throw it out and not think twice about it.

Jesus said:

“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.” (Matthew 5:13)

Jesus is not concerned about explaining chemistry by examining the contents of Sodium Chloride. He is still talking about the ways of the Kingdom of Heaven in this passage as he is in the entire Sermon on the Mount. In this verse he is talking about the distinctive characteristics of a disciple of Jesus. It may be hard to see it at first, but trust me he is.

What makes a disciple a disciple? In referring to salt’s saltiness he is making a point that if you are the salt of the world then you better be salty. You better be what salt is meant to be. You better be what a disciple is meant to be.

plumr

Not to be used on your food

We know that the combination of the chemicals Sodium and Chloride combine to make what we know as salt. When these ingredients come together it makes an element that is distinctive. It creates a product that can preserve food and give flavor to our diets. You get one of the ingredients wrong and you don’t get the same product. For example, if you combine Sodium with Oxygen and Hydrogen instead of Chloride, you get a strong chemical base they use in LiquidPlumr to unclog your drain. You don’t want to sprinkle that stuff on your mashed potatoes.

Specific ingredients make up salt that then yield distinctive qualities. Jesus is saying something similar about disciples. Specific ingredients go into making a disciples. There are specific elements that make up the disciple’s identity.

He just went over the list of ingredients in the beatitudes. Reread Matthew 5:3-12 if you need to. These ingredients include those whose character is defined by humility (“poor in spirit”), meekness, and internal purity, in spite of suffering and mourning. The ingredients of a disciple are also displayed by their acts of mercy, righteousness and peace even when there is opposition to the point of physical, emotional, and social persecution. These people are those who make up the kingdom of God, they are disciple of Jesus.

A disciple is made up of these ingredients and God blesses these people. The Kingdom of God has citizens who possess these distinguishable characteristics. If we do not possess these qualities then we are somebody…but we are not disciples of Jesus. We may be a successful person, a good person, a popular person, but if you do not have, or working to have, the character that Jesus described then you are not his disciple.

It is disheartening to Jesus when people claim to be his disciples but start wars. It doesn’t make sense to the Lord when his people claim to be under his guidance while condoning inequality and injustice. It makes as much sense for disciples to live in impurity as it makes sense for table salt to be used in treating open wounds. Both the disciple and salt only cause pain when they are not used for their intended purpose.

You are only good for what you have been created to be.

Jesus said a little later on:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23

Many may think that because they call Jesus “Lord” or “Savior” and call themselves “Disciples” or “Christians” that this is sufficient. Many believe that getting busy for Jesus by being involved in certain ministries and activities will please the Lord. Certainly those who can accomplish miraculous feats and communicate prophetically will please the Lord right? All of these souls are tragically misinformed. Doing good things for others in the name of the Lord is a good thing of course. But Jesus looks at them and doesn’t recognize them. “I never knew you.”

Jesus was looking at these supposed disciples and he didn’t see the distinctive characteristics that are to make up his disciples. Yes they did good things, but they were more concerned about doing good things than doing the good things Jesus taught them to do. Jesus says here that the distinctive characteristic of the disciple is one who does God’s will. It is the one who obeys Jesus’ teachings. Jesus is looking for students that will internally conform to his character.

Jesus doesn’t require certain ministries to be done but a certain person to become. To say it another way, it is not about what you get done for God but what you become for God.

Jesus doesn’t require certain ministries to be done but a certain person to become. To say it another way, it is not about what you get done for God but what you become for God.

Jesus wants disciples who are willing to actually do and become what he says to do and become. Too many Christians emphasize doing ministry and being busy for God as distinctive characteristics of the disciple. This is not genuine discipleship. This is called Potassium Chloride.

Impostor Salt

Impostor Salt

Potassium Chloride is marketed as a salt substitute. AlsoSalt sells Potassium Chloride as a salt substitute. Their slogan is “It tastes like salt.” You get all the benefits of sodium chloride but without the negative effects like high blood pressure. So basically its imposter salt. It uses salt’s name in vain. It acts like salt but it’s not salt. It has some characteristics of it, but it’s an impostor.

There are many potassium chloride disciples out there. They like to act like disciples at times and they do some things to seem like disciples. Some think that they actually are disciples. They even go to church, involve themselves in ministries of the church, and do a lot of good things. But they do not have the internal character that the Lord is truly looking for.

In the end, it pains me to think that some may run to the Lord calling out his name. He we will turn to us, look us in the heart, and say, “I never knew you.” Then we will say, “But I’ve gone always gone to church, I’ve taught classes, I’ve lead singing, I’ve always given generously, I’ve done this and that.” Jesus will say, “When did I tell you that what is most important to me is what you accomplish. I always called you to become the kind of person that I taught about. I created you to be my disciple.”

You are only good for what you have been created to be. We have been created to be disciples of Jesus.

We wear the Behaviors, Lifestyle, Understandings, and Environment of our culture

We wear the Behaviors, Lifestyle, Understandings, and Environment of our culture

We have all been created to be unique. Here’s a tough question: Are we who we are based on nature or nurture? The answer is yes. We all have been given certain physical genes by God through our parents and we have been given certain B.L.U.E. jeans (Behaviors, Lifestyle, Understandings, and Environment) to wear by our family and culture. We are unique individuals shaped by God in the miracle of physical procreation and through the circumstances of our life through our cultural and familial upbringing.

Jamie and I confuse Luke’s and Hannah’s voice a lot. They have similar tones in their voices. Some have discovered that the unique tone was derived from the Custer LOUD gene. It is a very rare but useful gene, especially if you are going to be an outdoor cattle auctioneer or a street performer. Their voices are loud and similar but this should not be surprising. They are brother and sister. They do share the same ingredients, they are just mixed a little different. They are uniquely Luke and Hannah but they share a common gene pool and identity.

Here’s the point: we are all unique creations of God but we have all been created to be disciple of Jesus.

Here’s the point: we are all unique creations of God but we have all been created to be disciple of Jesus.

Some of us may be tempted because of our unique abilities and upbringing to say, “I am made to do this job.” Well, you have been created to follow Jesus. You may say, “I am made to be a parent.” What a joy it is but you’ve been created to be a disciple of Jesus. You may think that you have been created for this or that, to accomplish this or that. You may feel that you have been created to experience this, worship in this way, to groove to that, to live for this. And Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth. You are made to be a certain kind of person.”

You have been created to be a disciple of Jesus that shows it through your distinctive life. By “You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus meant that we would be people who pursue the character of Jesus and to share it with the world.

dead sea saltHow do you know if water has salt in it? You taste it. When you swim in the ocean or a salt water pool you quickly find out there’s salt present because you can taste it. You experience it. The church is to be Christ’s presence in the world. We are to be salt to the world. In our presence, people of the world should experience a person who is different from the values of the world. We are created to be disciples of Jesus. We have these distinctive characteristics from following the Lord.

We are to be known as people who do Jesus-like things in Jesus-like ways. Most importantly, we should be known as people with Jesus-like characters, or characteristics. Are we known for integrity, purity, love, compassion, justice, self-sacrifice, and righteousness? When people are in your presence, can they detect the salt?

If you’re not salty maybe you are fruity? The fruit of the Spirit according to Paul is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal 6). Both Jesus and Paul are talking about the same kind of life in the kingdom of God. A life given in service to our Lord Jesus.

One of the main ways that people experience your heart is their conversations with you. Jesus said that “the mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matt 12:34).  What you say reveals your heart.  It shows what is important to you and what you believe about life and Jesus.

Paul knows how important our conversations are with those outside of faith in Jesus. In Colossians 4:5-6 he says:

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

Salt was a symbol used for wisdom in Greek times. Paul here encourages the Colossians toward wise interactions with the outsiders in their community. He wants their conversations to display the wisdom that they live by. He wants their conversations to be seasoned with salt.

To be “the salt of the earth” means that we interact with grace, wisdom, and love with those in our community. It also means that we are ready to tell people about why we chose to live the way we live. To tell people about the kind of life that Jesus taught about. To speak to others about how life is intended to be built on the rock of Jesus. Is your speech seasoned with words that Jesus would be proud of? Are your words salty with encouragement and pure expressions?

You are only good for what you have been created to be. You have been made to be a disciple of Jesus. One that is proactively different than the world. A disciple is one that is working toward seasoning his life with the words, and in turn, the character of Jesus.

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