From: Su Min
Today, even as I sit in a room in Penang. as we turn to Matt 5:13, we hear Jesus speak to us in current active words, with truths that apply to us today as much as they applied to his disciples as he spoke to them while they gathered around him on that hillside in Galilee near Capernaum, 2000 years ago. Jesus speaks to his disciples, Jesus says us, Jesus says to you and me, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses it's saltiness, how can it be made salty again. It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men (Matt 5:13)." Jesus says "Salt is good but if it loses its saltiness how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil or the manure pile. It is thrown out (Luke 14:34)"
In this part of the sermon on the mount we see a gradual shift in Jesus teaching. His over all message is "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matt 4:17)". He began with blessing: blessings on account of our correct relationship with God, and blessings on account of our relationships with others (Matt 5: 3-12). Now he shifts the focus onto the responsibility of being his follower and he delineates the fate of those who will not meet these responsibilities.
Jesus says "You are the salt of the earth." In the OT days, salt had a great social, agricultural and religious significance. In Leviticus 2:13 God prescribes that salt be added as a seasoning to grain offering. In Numbers 18:19, the holy offering to God are given to Aaron as an everlasting covenant of salt. In 2 Kings 2:20 Elisha used salt to purify the bitter waters of the spring at Jericho. Salt was to be sprinkled onto the slaughtered bull and ram before being sacrificed as burnt offering (Eze 43: 22.)
In the mideast setting of Galilee, the disciples recognised salt as a precious commodity. Even today some primitive societies us salt as a trading currency. By declaring "You are the salt of the earth", Jesus expresses how precious, we disciples are to him.
Salt was used to preserve meat, to enhance flavour of food, to purify water. So to, we as Christ's disciples, are given the responsibility of being salt of the earth, precious commodity we are. We have the role of preserving the world by curing the meat of the unbelievers by the word of God, spreading the Good news that they may be saved. To cure the meat, the salt has to be mixed intimately with the meat, so that the salt seeps into and soaks into the tissue. So too, we are to go Judea, Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth, to mix and mingle with all nations, letting the goodness and righteousness of our behaviour seep into them, influence them. May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts being acceptable to God, and bear the urgent call to repentance to all the earth.
"You are the salt of the earth" Jesus says. Jesus means for us to go out into the world and flavour it, so that it is pleasing and pleasant to God. Offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God- this is your spiritual act of worship (Rom 12:1). And if we can encourage others to join in the family of God, showing then the need for confession, and salvation, then they too will offer their bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. We have the opportunity to flavour the earth, make life more palatable and tasty when we learn to order our lives in a God- like way. God is love (1 John 4:16). Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but always rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Cor 13:4-8).
So too, we as children of God, we as salt of the earth must be patient, we are to be kind. We must not envy, must not boast, must not be proud. As salt of the earth we are not to be rude, we are not to be easily angered, we are to keep no record of wrongs. As followers of Christ we are not to delight in evil but always rejoice with the truth. As true believers we must always protect, always trust, always hope, always persevere. We are to feed the hungry, water the thirsty, invite in strangers, clothe the naked, look after the sick, visit the imprisoned, (Matt 25: 35-36). What does the Lord require of you? "To act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God (Mic 6:8)." God's word tells us we will improve the quality of life of those around us, because we will season the world, because we are the salt of the earth.
By declaring "You are the salt of the earth", Jesus tells us that we are to purify the world. We can not begin to purify the world if we ourselves are impure. So we must submit ourselves to the refining fire, confess our sins and let the blood of Christ wash us clean. Then by example we go into the world, armed with the spirit of discernment and the spirit of wisdom, to weed out the corrupting influences of the worldly way.
There is no choice, no option to this responsibility of disciples being the salt of the earth. It is part of the job description as spelled out in Luke 14: 26-35. Weigh carefully before you accept. Plan properly before you start. All or none. Jesus says that if we want to follow him we must know how much it costs and we must be prepared to pay the price. Being salt of the earth is part of the job. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!
And you must keep on going at it. Being salty in the right sense for a start is not good enough. If you stop being salty, if your lose your saltiness, your fate is already declared. You are longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are fit neither for the soil or the manure pile. You will be thrown out.
The casting out of the unfit is clearly described in three passages:
- From the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, the unfit will be thrown "outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth ( Matt 8:12)."
- From the wedding feast, the guest who came undressed, unprepared, without respect, thrown "outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 22:13)".
- From his master's presence, the servant with the neglected talent, thrown "outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt 22:13)."
Jesus says to you and me, "You are the salt of the earth."
Let us pray.
Abba, Father, thank you for your love for us.
Thank you for your word today, your teaching that meets us at our very point of need.
Thank you for teaching us that we are the salt of the earth.
Thank you for showing us that we are to season the world, flavour it and purify it though our words and through our Godly way of life.
Thank you for teaching us that it is an ongoing task, a task that we continue to do till we meet again, beyond the river Jordan.
Thank you for the clear way you teach us the fate of salt that has lost its saltiness.
In the precious name of Jesus who taught us Perfect Love.
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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