Given the volatile state of affairs across the nation, I want to remind those in the Church of something that Jesus taught the disciples.
In Matthew chapter five, We have recorded for us what we know as the sermon on the mount. Matthew records this message beginning with what we call the beatitudes. Jesus highlights a few types of people that are blessed. He mentions the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the gentle, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, the merciful, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, and those who are falsely persecuted. In the progression that Matthew gives us, Jesus, then makes a couple statements that are beneficial for us to hear.
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men
– Matthew 5:13 (NASB)
Jesus began by describing the character qualities that invite God’s blessings. The inference to the disciples is that they should strive to be those kinds of people. As they became these kinds of people, they would have the best opportunity to affect change in the culture around them. Jesus wanted them to take these admirable qualities and saturate the culture around them.
The caution is that if the salt loses its taste, it is no longer good for anything. It is only when humanity displays qualities in line with God’s character that it can bring about eternal influence. With the wrong character, we are of no use to God, as we will be unable to work towards His will and purposes. This may sound harsh, but you cannot be full of pride, hurtful, apathetic, vengeful, unrepentant, an adversary to the Church, or an enemy to the truth, which are in conflict with the character qualities expressed in the beatitudes, and fulfill the purposes of God.
The Analogy Of Salt
Jesus uses the analogy of salt, as a spice, to illustrate the point of spiritual influence. When used as a spice, the role of the salt is to change the flavor of food. In the same way salt influences the taste of food, followers of Christ are to influence the society and culture.
When a follower of Christ is among a group of people, the stories that are told about them should be stories of having made the group better. As a follower of Christ we should follow Jesus’ example to serve and we should learn to be humble. If we interact with others and put their needs first, we will communicate that they are important. If we serve others, we will earn trust and the right to be heard. The best way to influence others is to show them that we have their best interest at heart. This allows us to influence their life.
Humility is another character quality that endears others to us. It allows them to connect with us on a deeper level. When we can be honest about our faults and failures, people can begin to relate to us, because none of us is perfect. Whether they realize it or not, they will begin to admire you for the courage it takes to be transparent.
Too Much Salt
The right amount of salt can bring out the best flavor in food, but too much salt can so alter the taste of the food that it becomes repulsive. Those in the Church must be careful this does not happen to them.
I have heard two phrases over the years that seem to be applicable at this point in the discussion. The first is, “people will never care how much you know, unless they know how much you care. As Christians seek to influence the people around them, it is critical that the hard work of creating and growing relationships is present.
Some Christians are guilty of being so focused on seeing people changed that they come on too strong. They forget that leading people to a relationship with Christ, nearly always, begins with a personal relationship with someone else. When we take time to invest and listen to others, when we serve them without asking anything in return, or when we accept them as they are, we give depth to the relationship.
If the foundation of the relationship is fixing the other person, it will be impersonal and lacking in mutual trust. It will be hard for the other person to be pointed to Christ without feeling criticized.
The second phrase is this: “you are so spiritually minded, that you are of no earthly good.” It is easy to lose sight of the fact that people have everyday needs. It is hard to convince someone of their need for Jesus when they are hungry. All followers of Christ must understand that we have to meet people where they are in life. When we engage their real world problems first, it becomes a window for them to look through to see their spiritual problems. However, if we neglect to address their real world problems, they become so consumed with earthly necessities, that they have a hard time dealing with issues that have spiritual or eternal significance.
The Bottom Line
When Jesus tells His disciples that they are the salt of the earth, He communicates an expectation that they will influence the world around them. Just as salt has the power to enhance or ruin food, followers of Christ have the power to lead people closer to God or push them away.
Jesus talks about the kind of people and character qualities, in the beatitudes, that have the power to enhance people’s lives. He desires us to go and be those kinds of people, so we influence the world. So that we can give voice and expression to the heart of God.
But, as Jesus often does, He gives us the other side of the coin. If we are not those people, we will repel others. We will lose the ability to influence towards godliness and we will become useless for Kingdom work.
With warnings such as this, Jesus is consistently challenging us to evaluate our motives, our speech, and our behaviors to make sure they are in line with His purposes. Reason being, who we are, influences what we do.
In this instance, Jesus is also challenging us not to be passive. If we are to influence our surroundings, we must be active. We have to make connections with people in order to speak into their lives.