You Are the Salt of the Earth: A Sermon on Matthew 5:13-16

A sermon preached at United Reformed Church of Clifton, March 8, 2020

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

In our scripture lesson Jesus tells us that we are the salt of the earth.  To put it another way: Christians are called to make a difference in the world.  This morning I want you to see 5 things we can learn from salt about making a difference.

1.  Salt preserves things from decay. 

We are so used to refrigeration that we forget how essential salt was to preserving food both in ancient and modern times.  During the time of Jesus fish caught in the Sea of Galilee were salted and shipped to Rome where they were considered a delicacy.  During the Civil War soldiers lived on rations of salt pork and hard tack. The confederacy had so few salt works that any man who worked in salt manufacturing was given an exemption from military service. To this day you can still buy salt-cured ham.

Christians are called to be salt to our community by living out Kingdom values.  We do that by practicing generosity instead of succumbing to consumerism. We do that by engaging in civil dialogue instead of engaging in name calling and mudslinging. We do that by always telling the truth, even when the boss asks us to lie for her. We do that by living lives of integrity.  By being salt, we have a crucial role in keeping our society and the world from sliding further into decay.

2. Salt can cleanse and heal wounds.

On their web site, The Wound Care Society has this to say about the healing properties of salt.

For centuries, saltwater has been used as one of those natural remedies in healing skin injuries. In some ancient cultures, such as Egyptian and Greece, salt water was used as a remedy for scrapes, cuts, mouth sores, and skin irritations. It does not stop there and as a matter of fact, saline solution is still being used in the modern medical world.  

They go on to point out that salt does two things.  1) It can kill certain types of bacteria and 2) it can help to reduce inflammation.

If you get an ingrown toe nail that becomes infected and inflamed, the doctor will tell you to soak it 3 times a day for 20 minutes in a solution of warm Epsom salts.  The solution will draw out the infection and reduce the swelling. If you have an infected tooth or a sore in your mouth, the dentist will tell you to gargle with warm salt water.  Salt has healing properties.

Christians can be the salt that heals wounds because we point people to the Great Physician. 

3.  Salt gives life its flavor.

When you add salt to a baked potato does it stop tasting like a baked potato? No, of course not.  When you add salt to a baked potato it enhances the potato.  You might say that salt makes the potato taste more “potatoey.” It tastes like a potato really should taste.

Amy Oden a professor of Early Church History and Spirituality puts it this way

We are the tastiness that adds salt to lives around us. We are light that makes plain the justice way of the kingdom of God. Jesus says we must be tasty and lit up in order to make a difference for God in the world.

Working Preacher, February 9, 2014

I like that image.  Let’s be tasty and lit up so that others will want the joy of the Lord.

4. Salt makes us thirsty

It is the salt in our body that helps us to know when we are thirsty.  Bars often put out salty peanuts and pretzels because they know that it will make their customers thirsty and they will drink more.  Perhaps we Christians need to become pretzels so that people will be thirsty for Jesus, the Living Water.

James Montgomery Boice in his book, The Sermon on the Mount, asks an important question.

Do you make anyone thirsty for Jesus?  The non-Christian tends to feel satisfied, even when there may be an unrecognized thirst in their life.  But when a Christian comes into their life and they see evidence of joy, satisfaction and peace, that can make them look up and say, “That’s what I want; that it is what I want to be like.

James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 63

It’s not that we set out to make others thirsty.  But if Jesus is living in our life, his joy and peace will flow out of our life into theirs. Like salt, this will create a deep thirst in them that only Jesus can satisfy.

Let me tell you about Chuck Dore.  When he was a young man he lived the life of Hemmingway.   During the 1930s he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps to build roads and fight forest fires in Montana.  He also played minor league baseball.  During WW II he enlisted in the Navy and was stationed abroad a battleship in the South Pacific as an artillery spotter; it was his job to go ashore and call in artillery strikes on Japanese positions. When he returned home, he got married, got a good job, had a couple of kids and two prized Irish Setters.

But he threw it all away for the bottle. When I met him 25 years later he was homeless and being treated for alcoholism at the Salvation Army in downtown Cleveland.

Chuck came into my life because he was dating a grandmother who came to our church.  Over the next few months he fell off the wagon once, but he eventually gave his life to Jesus, stopped drinking and after a couple of years became a deacon in our church.  What changed him?  He saw in the church a group of people that loved Jesus and loved him and he discovered a thirst that only Jesus could satisfy.  We were that salt that made him thirsty for Jesus.

5. For salt to be of any use it needs to get out of the saltshaker.

Helmut Thielicke, a German preacher who ministered in Germany after WWII, put it this way:

Out of the salt shaker and into the world

[Salt and light share a common attribute.] Both become useful only when they give of themselves, when they are mixed with something else and sacrificed.  Light goes into darkness and salt loses itself in the dough. [But oh, how a little light can bring hope to a hopeless situation and] how few grains of salt can change a whole quantity of dough!

Helmut Thielicke, Life Can Begin Again, p. 29

Over the past 20 years our church has shrunk drastically as in membership and attendance.  It would be very tempting to think, well we can’t really do anything so let’s just stay here in our nice comfortable salt shaker, the church.  Let’s love the people we’ve got until we close the door.  But perhaps Jesus wants to shake us up.  Perhaps he wants us to get out of the church and into the world.


You may be saying to yourself, how can we make a difference, we’re so small? You may even be saying how can I as one solitary Christian make a difference?  I’m just a common ordinary person without a lot of talents

Let me close with an encouraging quote from James Montgomery Boice.

Salt is one of the most common things in life.  It is found everywhere.  So when Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth,” he was saying “I delight to use little things.  “He did not say, “You are the gold of the earth.”  He did not say, “You are the uranium of the earth.”  He did not even say, “You are the lead,” although Christians sometimes resemble lead far more than we like to admit.  He said, “You are the salt”—a common substance.  It is the common things that God uses to brings the most glory to his name.

James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount, p. 65

You see it doesn’t depend on what you think of yourself.  Jesus didn’t say, “You might be the salt of the earth, (if you have the right talents). He said you ARE the salt of the earth.  If Jesus lives in you and this church, then we are the salt of the earth, regardless of what we think of ourselves and our abilities.  The only thing that is required of us is that we let God shake us out of the salt shaker and into the world. 

Jesus will do the rest.

Rev Michael A. Weber, March 8, 2020.
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