Jesus used the concepts of salt and light a number of different times to refer to the role of His followers in the world.
Salt has been critical in life and civilizations, but why is this mineral so much more critical to life then other minerals found around the world? It is estimated that there are more then 14,000 different uses for salt! There are cooking, cleaning, health and many other benefits to using salt. All the uses I could find online are positive and beneficial.
So let’s look into why Jesus said we are to be like salt.
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless.” Matthew 5:13 NLT
Salt had two purposes in the Middle East during the first century. Because of the lack of refrigeration, salt was used to preserve food, especially meat, which would quickly spoil in the desert environment. Believers in Christ are to be preservatives to the world, preserving it from the evil inherent in the society of sinful and ungodly men whose unredeemed natures are corrupted by sin (Psalm 14:3; Romans 8:8).
Second, salt was used then, as is now, as a flavor enhancer. In the same way that salt enhances the flavor of the food it seasons, the followers of Christ are to stand out as those who “enhance” the flavor of life in this world. Christians, living under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and in obedience to Christ, will inevitably influence the world for good, as salt has a positive influence on the flavor of the food it seasons. Where there is strife, we are to be peacemakers; where there is sorrow, we are to be the ministers of Christ, binding up wounds, and where there is hatred, we are to exemplify the love of God in Christ, returning good for evil (Luke 6:35).
In view of these verses, what sorts of things can hinder or prevent the Christian from fulfilling his or her role as salt and light in the world? The passage clearly states that the difference between the Christian and the world must be preserved; therefore, any choice on our part that blurs the distinction between us and the rest of the world is a step in the wrong direction. This can happen either through a choice to accept the ways of the world for the sake of comfort, convenience, or to violate the law of obedience to Christ.
Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.” Mark 9:50 NLT
Mark suggests that saltiness can be lost specifically through a lack of peace with one another; this follows from the command to “have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
“Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? 35 Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!” Luke 14:34-35 NLT
And in Luke, we find a reference to the metaphor of salt once again, this time in the context of obedient discipleship to Jesus Christ. The loss of saltiness occurs in the failure of the Christian to daily take up the cross and follow Christ wholeheartedly.
It seems, then, that the role of the Christian as salt and light in the world may be hindered or prevented through any choice to compromise or settle for that which is more convenient or comfortable, rather than that which is truly best and pleasing to the Lord. Moreover, the status of salt and light is something that follows naturally from the Christian’s humble obedience to the commandments of Christ. It is when we depart from the Spirit-led lifestyle of genuine discipleship that the distinctions between ourselves and the rest of the world become blurred and our testimony is hindered. Only by remaining focused on Christ and being obedient to Him can we expect to remain salt and light in the world.
Ask your children what they think Jesus meant when He said we are to be salt to the world. Discuss some of the positive uses of salt, and how that is an analogy for how we Christians are to live.