“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. [road salt anyone?] Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Nobody Wants To Be Different
What you see throughout the Bible, the Christian life, it’s as though it comes and says the Christian life is about being different, as opposed to the world. To all your friends in the world, you are marked out as being different, sometimes weird, there’s a certain hostility they hold toward your Bible-based beliefs. There’s a reason for this. When it speaks to how I am different as a Christian, as a child of God, as opposed to the world, it’s like the difference between light and darkness, dirty and clean, hot and cold. When you have light, and it comes into an area where there’s darkness, not only are they distinctly different, light and darkness, but the light has an influence on darkness. When Jesus spoke of the life of the Spirit of the blessed life in the Beatitudes we just covered, he then went on and connected it in the last Beatitude with the life of persecution. That the person whose living the Christian life is somebody who by their very nature is going to encounter resistance, hostility, and opposition from the world. That it brings such power with it, such charge, such effect that it impacts the society, there’s a recoil, a response, a reaction from the society (and those in it). That’s why Paul, and we read this verse last week, he said in 1st Timothy 3:12, “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” If I am a believer and I am not experiencing opposition from the world, as we mentioned last week, there’s then something wrong, meaning there’s something wrong with me. For to live a godly life is to then have opposition, and if I’m not having opposition, then I must not be living a very godly life. You may be tempted to think ‘Well, I don’t need to be so radical, I don’t need to be radical. You know, I can kind of mellow it out a little bit, you know, there’s still room for me to be a Christian, and you know, to kind of just flow with the world too, flow with the guys at work, flow with the kids in the neighbourhood, and not stick out too much, there’s still room for that.’ In fact, based on what Jesus says in verses 13 to 16 here, I think it clearly makes you rethink that position.
What Does It Mean When Jesus Says “You Are The Salt Of The Earth”?
Verse 13, “You are the salt of the earth, but if the salt looses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” The translation literally is in the emphatic tense, meaning ‘You alone are the salt of the earth’---as the Church, as Christians, you and I, we alone are the salt of the earth. There is no other place in the world where you can find the salt he is referring to, there is no other source. What does Jesus mean by “the salt of the earth”? In the time of Christ, salt played a big part in the society, it was far more significant and valuable. In fact, in their society, in ancient times, salt was even used in certain instances as a very valuable commodity. It was used as money, as salt cakes. And in the time of Christ here, in the Roman Empire, they would give as part of the salary to a soldier, they would give them an allotment of salt, a daily allowance of salt. It was known in Latin as the Salarium, which is were we get our word salaries. So when we say salary, we’re actually going back to the salt that was being given as part of an income to a Roman soldier. But why was it so valuable? It was valuable to them, because it was very powerful, powerful in the ways that it could be used. Back in the time of Christ there was no refrigeration. You can store foods for a long time in our culture with refrigeration. Back in the time of Christ there was no refrigeration. But back in the time of Christ, without salt, it was tough to have something stick around for awhile as far as food was concerned. If you had some great meat you got from a lamb in your flock and you’ve prepared it, I mean, if you don’t add salt to it, salt it down, it’s not going to stay around for very long, because immediately there are these biologic forces that then come and seek to corrupt it, spoil it. Have you ever smelled spoiled meat or fish? It’s not edible, can poison and kill you. My uncle died from eating spoiled meat. Food doesn’t last very long if it is not preserved in some way. For us now, it’s refrigeration and freezing, back then they’d salt down meat and fish. The 12 disciples hearing Jesus say this would know exactly what he was talking about, at least nine out of the twelve apostles were fishermen, in the fishing industry up in Galilee. When they came in after a night’s fishing, they’d have to immediately gut their catch and salt it down. There wasn’t even time to take their catch to Jerusalem to sell as fresh fish, it would spoil on the journey south. It had to be salted. Their fish from Galilee was sold all over the Roman Empire. So Jesus’ analogy about them being the salt of the earth had real meaning to them, it meant they were, as we’ll see, the preservative of the world. In society we are this element, is what Jesus is saying to us in verse 13. As born-again, Holy Spirit filled believers we are retarding the decay, the moral and spiritual decay of the society we live in. That society, the society of the world, is corrupt, and what prevents it from becoming quickly debased and overly corrupt is the fact that there is this “salt” that’s there, hindering that decay, that’s resisting that decay. That is what he’s saying, “You are the salt of the earth.” If you remove the Church, the greater Body of Christ, the world quickly becomes utterly debased. So I by my very nature as a Christian now, have this way about me, that I am actually hindering the decay of the very society I live in. [A real example of salt is Ray Comfort. See http://www.180movie.com]
A Salt-less Church, Denomination Verses A Salty Church, Denomination
So therefore, if you have a church that is salt-less, or has become salt-less in an area, in a region, you have a dire situation, for it’s no longer hindering the decay of the society around it, within the sphere of it’s influence. If there is a lot of freedom for immorality and it just continues to grow readily and freely, in the media and our newspapers and our schools, that just says there’s a weak Church. Now we can go even a little bit further. You are the salt of the earth, not only as a church, but individually, and then, also as a family, as parents. Dads and Moms, how are you? Look at your homes, are they free from corruption? And I think of a dad often when we sometimes correlate a dad to being the high priest of his home. Ezekiel chapter 44, verse 23, “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane [unholy], and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.” I mean, is there salt in your life, salt in your home, a hunger and thirst for righteousness?---so that they’re going ‘Not going to get away with that in this house, better not put that on, there’s ramifications, boy, you’d better not do that, better not bring that video game in here, you would be one sorry child…’ Now as Christians, as we started out here, we may, I mean, we’re people, we may struggle with ‘I don’t like being different, that makes me uncomfortable, I don’t like being thought of that way, being looked at by the world and my friends in the world in such a negative way.’ And you see it a lot, especially in the Church in America, the liberal church denominations, ‘I don’t want to be radical, I’m going to just tone it down, you know, gonna just kind of blend in a little bit more, I’ve got my Jesus in my heart, and I believe in the Lord, but I just, you know, don’t want to be radical and be seen as different.’ In contrast to that, Jesus is saying just before verse 13 here, ‘ok, blessed are the persecuted.’ But I might be tempted to say ‘That’s for the prophet people and not for me,’ but then Jesus comes with the next verse, ‘You are the salt of the earth.’ Do you understand what that means? Do you understand all that’s involved in that? Do you know what it means to be salt-less, as opposed to being salty? And if you’re salt-less, then there will be awful ramifications in the home and in the community and the church. Then Jesus in the second half of verse 13 goes a little bit further, he says, “but if the salt looses its flavour, how shall it be seasoned?” In other words, if it’s not salty anymore, what’s it good for? He says it’s essentially useless. He says it’s good for nothing, it’s going to be just trampled on by men. If a Christian is not salty they’re going to get run over, run over by the world, just like road-salt. And if a church or denomination has become unsalty, lost it’s Christian flavour, it’s going to get trampled on by the world. And don’t we see that happening in all sorts of ways? In most instances, especially back in the culture at the time this was written down, if they had salt that wasn’t pure, it was mixed with other elements, if it had become useless in that sense, they would then take it and would spread it on the roads. And Jesus is giving a picture here. And there’s no doubt when a Christian, when a church loses its effectiveness and its influence of righteousness and goodness in the society around it, and there’s not that sense of hindering the putrification of society, then that church, and the Christians within it get overrun by the world, and are seriously in danger of becoming just like the world around them. The whole Body of Christ will never ever stop being salty, but parts of it, denominational groups that are much older, tend to lose their saltiness, and as Charles Stanley brought out once, a church or denomination that goes through this life-cycle will end up with more members in it who are born-into the church or denomination than are truly born-again. These churches and denominations tend to become what is termed as “liberal,” where practicing sinners are given free entrance into their membership, being baptized right into the church. So by now the majority of their members are not real Christians, a real Christian being defined as a person who has God’s Holy Spirit indwelling them. We see the same thing happening in the liberal churches in America today. Jesus has a warning for those churches, denominations, in Revelation 3:1-6, “And unto the angel of the church in Sardis write: These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars; I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead. Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee. Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with me in white: for they are worthy. He that overcometh, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name out of the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” Calvary Chapels (i.e. the late Pastor Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, CA affiliates) feel the denominations that sprang up from the 1600s through the 1800s, the Congregationalists, Methodists, etc., comprise what would be called the Sardis era of the Church, if Revelation 2-3 is taken as being an outline of the various era’s of the Christian Church from Jerusalem up to the present end-times. Check out the Church History section of this website to read about how these various revivals that turned into denominations got started and how spiritually strong and healthy they were when they first got started (see http://www.unityinchrist.com/history/IntroChurchHistory.htm).
Where Does The Blame Lie?
If I look around, if I see immorality abounding in the community and in this society, I can’t blame the judges, I can’t blame the media (of course they have their responsibility, and there’s issues there), I can’t blame the schools. What Jesus is saying here, if there is corruption that is growing, the deal is, when you look at the local churches, right where we’re meeting, you look at the churches in our community and around here, you look at the Church as a whole. If corruption is growing in my home, then I can’t blame it on my kids, that I just have bad kids, that they’re bent on evil, I have to sit back and think about my own life and example as a parent. Jesus would say the same principles over and over. In Luke 14, verses 34 to 35, Jesus says, “Salt is good: but if the salt have lost it’s savour, wherewith shall it be seasoned? It is neither fit for the land, nor yet fit for the dunghill; but men cast it out. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” Speaking again to the Church. If I’m not salty, and I don’t want to be different, so I’m just kind of blending in, and I’m not very salty, then Jesus says that’s a pitiful state, that is not even fit for being tossed on the dunghill. In Revelation 3:16 Jesus expresses a similar thought, “So then because you are luke-warm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of my mouth.” I would dare say, speculate, that the method Jesus will use to vomit the luke-warm out of his presence, will be through the intense persecution he allows to come upon the Church in the end-times. That always tends to drive the luke-warm out of the Church.
What Is Meant By “Flavour” or “Savour” In Verse 13?
When Jesus says in verse 13, ‘it’s lost it’s savour’? The word translated “flavour” or “savour” in the King James is the verb in Greek “moraino,” and that word comes from a Greek word which means “dull, sluggish, stupid or foolish.” [Strongs #3471, moraino (pronounced “mo-rah’ee-no):- to act as a simpleton…become [a] fool, make foolish, lose savour.] And so you can actually take this as, because of the Greek, that they become foolish, they’ve lost their saltiness, they’re in a foolish state. Christians like this profess a belief in Jesus Christ and the Bible, but have fallen for all the foolish fables taught in the world that contradict their very beliefs in what the Bible actually teaches. How people, churches lose their saltiness, is probably a slow deal (with the denominations, it has occurred gradually over the centuries since their start), so they spend less time in the Word, less time in church, less time in prayer, and the slow process of dying spiritually takes place, as they spiritually starve to death.
Other Uses For Salt, Salt Creates Thirst
Now there are other uses for salt, of course. Not only is salt used to preserve, it’s also used to season. Right? It makes things taste better. You get a really bland meal, and you throw a little salt on it, and it’s much more pleasant. And furthermore, salt promotes thirst, so when he says salt, I think you could say too, as the Church, as Christians, we are the salt of the earth, my life should be promoting thirst in the world, a thirst for the things of God. People around me should be saying ‘Because of those people, and being around them, I’m thinking about God now, I’m really wondering, I might go to church, I might give it a try. I want to sit down and talk to you at lunch, I’ve got some questions for you.’ There’s a story, at a meeting some young people were discussing the text “Ye are the salt of the earth.” One suggestion after another was made about ‘What is the meaning of salt?’ ‘Salt imparts desirable flavor’ one said. ‘Salt preserves from decay,’ another said. Then a Chinese Christian girl spoke out of an experience none of the others had. She said, ‘Salt creates thirst.’ And suddenly there was a hush in the room. Everyone was thinking. ‘Have I ever made someone thirsty for the Lord Jesus Christ?’ Are you making people thirsty for Jesus Christ? Are you salty?
“You Are The Light Of The World”
verses 14-16, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Jesus gives us another illustration. He says, verse 14, “You are the light of the world.” But what is light, and what does light do? Physical light dispels darkness. And it’s very powerful. But also there’s power to it, it has an effect upon the darkness, it penetrates the darkness. It exposes, it reveals if there’s something hiding. “You are the light of the world.” In Ephesians 5:13, Paul says, “But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light.” Let’s say you have a company run by a businessman, he’s got some folks working for him, a little firm, nobody’s a Christian, business is growing, so they hire another guy, they hire you, they hire this Christian on the staff. And just being there, you’re just there, you haven’t said anything, you’re just being who you are, you’re a Christian and there’s light in you. And now suddenly, one of the guys has a conversation with you, and he walks away going ‘Boy, I didn’t know I had pride in my heart. I didn’t even know that. And I had this funny feeling, but we had this disagreement, and I’m ready for the ‘We’re going to work this out and debate this and see who does better,’ and man, that guy was very humble.’ And it effected this guy’s thinking, ‘Ooh, that made me feel weird.’ And then one of the guys at work is going through a terrible situation at home, and you’re with the other guys and they’re talking about the guy and his struggles in a very nonchalant way, and yet you’re there, and you just pipe in and you come with words of compassion. And suddenly one of the guys is thinking ‘Ooh, I’m not like that, I didn’t know I had that lack of compassion in my heart, boy I wish I could be that way.’ And so you’re just there, exposing what is hidden, in the heart. Now also when you speak of light, you also speak of it in the context of spiritual enlightenment. Throughout the ages, there’s been different ages of enlightenment, there’s been new theories, philosophies, whatever that’s come and brought enlightenment in some field of physical knowledge, science, art, literature, music etc. Some of these are genuinely scientific, that enlighten our understanding of the physical creation around us. Well God is saying to the Church ‘You,’ and again it’s in the same “emphatic” sense, tense, ‘You alone, the Church, are the light of the world.’
The Light Dwells Inside Of Us
So, you are the light of the world, and you have this life-light in you that God says you’re to diffuse to the world. The reason why I am the light of the world is because Jesus himself is the Light, and if Jesus is in me (cf. John 14), then I am the light of the world. Jesus himself said many times, John chapter 8, verse 12, “I am the light of the world, he who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.” So he says to his people who are following him, to his disciples, he says, ‘Now you are the light,’ meaning ‘I, Jesus, am now working through you, and you have that role in the world.’ I am the light, I have come to give light, and now I’m in you and working through you, and so therefore…’ In fact the disciples, in Acts 13:47, speaking of their life, said, “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’” ‘I have set you that you will be a light to the Gentiles.’ And we are the only source of light in this dark world. And by the word “we” he means everyone who is part of the born-again Body of Christ, whether Gentile Christian or Messianic Jewish believer in Yeshua haMeschiach.
‘A City That Is Set On A Hill Cannot Be Hid’
The next thing Jesus says is in verse 14, he says, “A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid.” When he’s teaching this sermon on the shores of the Galilee on the side of the mount, just down the road was a community called Sefed, or in ancient times Bethua that was a city that sat on a little hill. And it was very visible. He potentially points it out, everybody’s looking, ‘See that city? That city up on the hill, can it hide itself?’ When Jesus returns, sets down on the Mount of Olives, and the Mount of Olives splits in two, a huge north-south plain will be cleared on top of that mountain range Jerusalem sits ontop of. The Millennial city of Jerusalem Jesus and the resurrected saints will rule the whole world from will be lit up at night by the glorious presence of Jesus Christ and these resurrected immortal saints, so that Jerusalem will be seen for many miles around, even way out at sea, a true city upon a hill shedding the light given off by all the saints and the Lord for all the world to see. Don’t believe me, look at this Scriptural study on this subject, it will amaze you: http://www.unityinchrist.com/kingdomofgod/mkg4page1.htm. In the very natural state of being who you are in Christ, with Jesus through the Holy Spirit dwelling inside of you, you can’t hide yourself, you can’t really blend in, you can’t just blend in with your surroundings, you’re a city on a hill, you stand out in this great contrast. That’s what I do with lights, you don’t turn them on to cover them up, that’s foolish. That’s just strange, no, instead you put a light on a lampstand and it gives light to the house.
“Let Your Light So Shine Before Men”
Well, finally in verse 16, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Notice he says “that they may see your good works”, not that they may see your ‘good arguments, your good speech, your good preaching’ or anything like that. The four Gospels are virtually filled with Jesus’ good works, that went along with and accompanied what he preached. And when he performed these healing miracles, people would walk away glorifying God. [based on condensed notes from a connective expository sermon given on Matthew 5:13-16, given somewhere in New England.] What follows is a short article I wrote covering these same four verses, but mainly covering the subject of light, as used by fishermen. These four verses are also about evangelism, and how we should go about it, as “fishers of men,” and where we will get the best catch of fish.
We’re the Salt & Light of the World, and the Fishers of Men
Jesus told his disciples (and we’re also his disciples), “Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” i.e. road salt. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle [lamp] and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:13-16) So Jesus said we are to be the salt of the earth, and salt was used in that day as a food preservative and powerful antiseptic. He also said we are to be the light of the world. How are we to be salt and light? He tells us in verse 16, by our good works. He didn’t say good talk, preaching or speech, but by our good works.
We’re Supposed To Be Fishers of Men
Let’s see where Jesus takes this theme. Matthew 4:18-19, “And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” So by being followers of Jesus, his disciples, we are supposed to be fishers of men. That would imply we are to draw, attract and lure people to Jesus and salvation through him. Fishermen in Jesus day went out to the northern tip of Galilee in their fishing boats at night (where it was shallow and the fish would come up to feed at night). They had to have lanterns, lamps lighted on a pole or up on the mast to see what they were doing. It also helped attract the fish. Let’s put this into the context of modern fishing. Many of you have seen The Perfect Storm, a movie based on a true story about a Long-liner tuna boat named the Andrea Gail and her crew. It showed how they fished for tuna at night. They would get to a spot in the ocean where their sonar told them there were fish schooling, the kind tuna feed on. Then at night, they would send out long fishing lines, steel lines with mackerel set on hooks along the line on leaders. As they bated these leaders that were paying out as the boat moved forward at about 2 knots (slowly cruising forward), a crewman next to a big box filled with lightsticks near the stern would be grabbing handfuls of lightsticks, snapping them to activate them, and he would be throwing them off the stern as the boat moved forward (so the light sticks would be floating above the line being paid out). The lightsticks would attract the tuna up near where the lines and leaders were that had the mackerel bated hooks near the surface. After the lines were all payed out they waited until daylight, and then they started hauling them in. If they had been correct in their estimation that tuna were in the area, they hauled in a good load of large tuna one after another. In Peter’s day, they would haul their boatload of fish to shore, gut and clean them, and immediately salt them down to preserve them for shipment and sale in places as far away as Jerusalem, and even Rome. Properly salted cod has lasted for years, and was still edible (once soaked in fresh water to get rid of the salt).
God the Father chooses each individual fish and “sets the hook”
So how does this analogy work? Jesus said God the Father draws people to Jesus. Jesus said, “No man [or woman] can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him [or her] up at the last day.” (John 6:44) So it is the ultimate responsibility of God the Father to select who is to be drawn to Jesus. But putting this in context with the other Scriptures we just looked at, God is using us as light sticks, light, through our good works (not necessarily through our talk), to draw people to the mackerel-bated hooks on the leaders. God the Father chooses each individual. The skipper on a long-liner would try to choose his fishing ground carefully, going to rich fishing grounds, and using sonar to locate schools of fish the tuna feed on. Then they would wait till night, and start setting out their lines and throwing light sticks out as the lines payed out. As we do good works for those less fortunate than us, individually or as good works projects, each of us is like a powerful light stick. But ultimately, it is the job of God the Father to ‘set the hook’, draw a person, draw a person to Jesus, open that person’s mind spiritually. No amount of “good works” will do that. It is a spiritual work done by God directly within that person’s mind, after they’ve been “drawn to the light.” No amount of light will “hook the fish.” That’s where prayer comes in, those in the church must be praying that those being drawn to the light are actually “called by God”, that God the Father opens their minds, making his presence known to them in an undeniable way. You remember how God called you, it was up close and personal.
Jesus Chooses the Fishing Ground
Is there a rich fishing ground that Jesus has designated we fish in? Yes, there is. When Jesus started his ministry, he showed everyone in the synagogue where that area was, and then throughout his ministry he worked in that specific area. Let’s see where it is. Luke 4:16-21, “And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up: and, as his custom was, he went into the synagogue on the sabbath day, and stood up for to read. And there was delivered unto him the book of the prophet Esaias [Isaiah]. And when he had opened the book, he found the place where it was written, The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath appointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” Jesus was quoting a prophecy about himself, found in Isaiah 61:1-2. The apostle Paul showed the makeup of the Church, what kind of fish were being caught by God, and it fits right in with Jesus’ quote of Isaiah 61:1-2. 1st Corinthians 1:26-29, 31, “For ye see your calling brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: but God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: that no flesh should glory in his presence…That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.” That’s the fishing ground God the Father and Jesus are fishing from. And as you can see, the apostle Paul was showing what kind of catch was coming into the early church of God in Corinth, as well as the other churches of God across Asia Minor, and even Judea and Jerusalem. Look throughout the four Gospels and you will see that it was this kind of people Jesus focused his ministry on. He was teaching them where to fish, and Paul explained why. God hates prideful and arrogant attitudes. So he reaches out to the humble and those who have been humbled and crushed by the society around them, by “the system.”
For a real example of salt, take a look at Ray Comfort. See,
Shedding the light of Christ into others:
Salt-less churches, denominations: