Spiritual Reflection – Salt
“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot. (Matthew 5:13 NRSV)
While salt has several uses, such as preserving food and de-icing footpaths and roads, its main function is to add flavour to food. It is probably used more than any other cooking ingredient to enhance the flavour of a dish. Salt is actually a mineral and therefore it does not lose its flavour over time, unlike herbs and spices.
So in Matthew’s Gospel, when we hear Jesus say “but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored?”, we might wonder what he was thinking? Even in the time of Jesus, people knew that salt didn’t lose its taste. But as he often did, Jesus uses a metaphor to make a point. This passage forms part of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’, and Jesus is addressing his disciples. He has just delivered the famous passage that we know as the ‘Beatitudes’, which communicates to the disciples that they will be blessed by God if they can follow the demanding way of life that Jesus is about to set out for them in the rest of the ‘Sermon’.
The metaphor that Jesus uses is to compare the discipleship of his followers with salt. Salt doesn’t lose its taste, but if it is mixed with other elements it can become impure and then it is useless for either adding flavour or preserving food. It is then only good for salting the path outside the house, where people will obviously trample over it. Likewise if the disciples get caught up with activities that take them away from their vocation to follow Jesus, then they too become less effective, like impure salt. But if the disciples can follow the demanding way of life that Jesus calls people to, then they are the “salt of the earth”. Their good works provide the example that other people can follow.
Nowadays there are many different types of salt that can be purchased: table salt, sea salt, rock salt, kosher salt, Himalayan pink salt and several others. The basic function that each of these salt types perform is to add flavour to food. To extend the salt/discipleship metaphor further, we can say that different Christian denominations, particular parishes within denominations, and even individual Christians, are like different types of salt. They may each have different characteristics that define one from the other, but their main purpose is the same: to bear witness to God in the world.
As disciples of Jesus, each of us is called to bear witness to God in the world. The best way we can do that is by the way we live our daily life. If we can do our best to follow the example that Jesus gave us through his own life and teaching, then we too will be blessed like those described in the Beatitudes. We will be the “salt of the earth” and a “light of the world”. An example for others to follow .