You are the Salt of the Earth, Part 1August 21, 2014
Before I get deep into this teaching, I want to first say thank you for your giving to this ministry and your prayers for us as we continue to fulfill the work God has called us to in the former USSR. This week as I looked at the list of givers who give monthly, occasionally, or even once a year to our ministry (people give in all kinds of different ways), my heart was so stirred and filled with gratitude for each person.
The money people sow into this ministry is their hard-earned money. I know there are other places where you could use it or sow it — so when you decide to support the work of the Gospel in our ministry, it is such an honor and a gift from Heaven for us. Jesus said, “…Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:21). What you give demonstrates that Jesus means so much to you! The fact that you have made giving a part of your budget ministers deeply to our hearts. With our partners, we feel we are at home among a company of believers of like-precious faith (see 2 Peter 1:1). Denise and I really do thank God for you!
During the summer months, it is usually more difficult to keep on track financially as a ministry because people are in the middle of summer vacations and busy schedules, and many simply forget to give. Honestly, we have felt the “pinch” this summer, and we are making adjustments. As a friend speaking to a partner, I sincerely thank you for not forgetting and for being steady regardless of the season — and I’m asking you: Would you consider adding a little more to your regular giving this month to help us catch up? It would really help us to continue moving forward without being deterred from our ongoing outreaches and the work God has called us to do here. Again, thank you for your faithful support in your giving and your prayers for us and this ministry!
This month, I’m continuing to write from my studies on our influence in this world as believers in Jesus Christ. Last month I shared with you that YOUR LIFE IS A PULPIT, and it’s true: Your life is the strongest message you will ever preach! Jesus said, “Ye are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13). I want to talk to you about what this really means to you and me and to those around us.
Jesus taught that we are the salt of the earth. Considering the various uses of salt in the ancient world and how important salt was to that time, this statement is very important. When Jesus uttered the word “salt” and likened His followers to this precious substance, all kinds of images no doubt flashed across their minds. They understood the many connotations that salt carried with it. But in essence, by using this illustration of salt, Jesus was teaching about the influence we’re to have on the world in which we live.
The word “salt” in the Greek language is the word halas, and it describes salt exactly like the salt we use in our homes and kitchens today. Today salt is so common that it can be purchased in any grocery store. But in early New Testament times, salt was an expensive and treasured commodity that was crucial and necessary in many spheres of life.
High-quality salt could only be found in a few places in Israel. One such location was the Hill of Salt, a seven-mile stretch located on the southwest coast of the Dead Sea. Salt could also be collected from the marshes situated along the embankment of the Dead Sea, or it could be gathered from salt pits near the Dead Sea. In each of these locations, the gathering of salt was an expensive process, which made salt very expensive to obtain. It was a commodity so rare that it was sparingly used, highly valued, and seldom wasted.
This helps us understand the value of salt in the ancient world — and when you see the various ways salt was used, you’ll better appreciate the great importance of Jesus’ statement: “You are the salt of the earth.
First, salt was used as a preservative and a flavor-enhancer.
Especially in the warm temperatures of Israel, meat would quickly spoil, rot, and decay. But when salt was added to the meat, the salt acted as a preservative. Therefore, salt was very important for the preserving of meats and other kinds of foods. In addition to preserving foods, it was also an enhancer of flavor.
In fact, salt is one of the most profound enhancers of taste that exists in the culinary world. A person becomes aware of how powerful this enhancer is when salt is lacking or missing from the food he eats, for unsalted food is usually monotonous, bland, and uninteresting. But when salt is added, the flavor is ignited! As in today’s word, salt in the ancient world both preserved food and provided it with a stronger and richer flavor. It was considered an expensive but essential staple for the long-term keeping of food and the enhancement of taste. Therefore, it was vital in every kitchen.
When Jesus said we were to be “the salt of the earth,” those who heard Him understood this to mean that through our influence, we should be a preserving force to a world that is filled with rottenness and decay. As a result of God’s Word working in our lives, we are like salt, and our very presence helps abate the corruption that is eating away at the world. Not only should our presence diminish the evil in the world, but our presence should also change the flavor of society as we bring the “flavor” of Christ into our individual surroundings.
In light of this, let me ask you: In what ways does your personal presence make a positive difference in your world? Do you feel you’re fulfilling your own role as “the salt of the earth”? It’s an important question that each of us should ask ourselves and then be open to making any necessary adjustments to our lives with God’s help.
Second, salt was used as an antiseptic.
In the ancient world where dirt and disease were common enemies to health, salt was used as an antiseptic. Especially in areas considered unclean, tainted, or contaminated — areas so filthy that they could potentially become hazardous to one’s health — it was believed that salt would work as a disinfectant. If properly applied in heavy doses, salt could sanitize, hygienically cleanse, and make a location relatively germ-free. The application of salt in such unsanitary conditions was considered to be enormously advantageous because people believed it would sterilize non-sterile environments.
For example, if a rapidly spreading disease was known to exist in a village, the sick people were often cleared out and relocated, and salt was immediately spread to disinfect the contaminated area to prevent the further spread of disease. Salt was such a powerful cleansing force that the ancient world believed it would assist in freeing the environment of infection. As an antiseptic, it was used in the fodder of barns and barnyards as a deterrent to the proliferation of sickness and disease among animals.
Therefore, when Jesus said we were to be “the salt of the earth,” those who heard Him understood that through our influence, we are to be a kind of spiritual antiseptic to a world that is diseased with sin. Through our influence, we should be a disinfecting source that deters the spread of sin and moral decay. Even a small dose of the spiritual salt we carry within ourselves is so powerful that if scattered about in society, our “saltiness” should help curb the spread of moral degeneration.
You see, if we are doing our jobs as “the salt of the earth,” our very presence can hinder the proliferation of sin and its effects. So when you look at your life and the things that surround you, do you see any evidence that your personal presence is making a difference and that you’re helping to promote a more “sanitized” environment — not because you’re pointing your finger at sin, but rather because of the saltiness of your life?
As a Christian, you are the salt of the earth and an expensive and treasured “commodity,” purchased at the price of Jesus’ own blood. There is so much value to your life, and I want to encourage you to grasp the magnitude of that value so you’ll make the most of your life and your influence for His name in the earth. The degree to which we do our jobs as “salt” depends on how we live our lives individually before God. We can yield our lives to Him in such a way that we never lose our saltiness or savor, and we become a preserving, “cleansing” influence in the world around us.
Next month, I’ll share with you about the uses for salt as a healing agent and as fertilizer. Meanwhile, how can Denise and I and our team be praying for you? We pray for our partners every single day, but when you share with us the things that are on your heart, it helps us pray in agreement with you specifically about those deepest heart’s desires. We really want to hear from you, so please let us know how we can pray for you!
We love you and thank God for you!
We are your brother and sister, friends, and partners in Jesus Christ,
Rick and Denise Renner
along with Paul, Philip, and Joel and their families