Salt of the Earth
In the poetic manner of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus starts by painting a portrait of the person who has become the Kingdom of Heaven…not entered or possessed it, but has actually come to embody God’s “reign,” God’s will being done on earth. His deepest purpose and pleasure: humility, connection, faithfulness—lived out in human form.
Jesus then transitions to show us the effect such people have on the lives and communities around them with two of his most famous metaphors. Salt and light.
When Jesus says a Kingdom person is the light of the world, that makes sense to us. There’s enough cultural overlap for us to see light as symbolizing an obviously positive effect. But what about salt? Why would Jesus choose salt alongside light? For most of us living a culture built on technology that includes refrigeration and antibiotics, salt has been relegated to table seasoning. But in the ancient world, salt was life itself.
The human body is about sixty percent salt water, same salinity as seawater, and humans and mammals can’t function without salt in their diet. Salt is one of the five basic tastes, but also has the ability to bring out other flavors and add zest to food. Salt kills bacteria. Ancient people didn’t know about bacteria, but knew that salting meat, fruits, and vegetables preserved them and rubbing salt in their wounds healed them. If soil is too acidic to grow crops, salt can be used as fertilizer to balance pH. Salt was so critical to ancient life that it was used as currency—traded equally for gold, silver, fine linen. Treaties were ratified with salt. Temple sacrifices and anointing oil were salted as the symbol of faithfulness, purity, fertility.
To purify and preserve life, fertilize new life, add zest and security to life. Jesus’ first followers would have immediately followed his metaphor.
Who is salt in your life? Who binds your wounds, both physical and emotional? Who encourages you and opens doors of new possibility? Who makes you laugh and leaves you better at each encounter? And who would say this of you? When we become Kingdom in ourselves, we become salt in others at the very same time.