Jesus had high expectations of His followers.
“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus told them, indicating the influence He expected them to have on the world. (Matthew 5:13-14) This phrase, “salt of the earth,” has come to mean a person of great kindness, love and honesty – which is certainly in harmony with how the Lord used it.
Salt has certain well noted characteristics which help us understand why Jesus used it as a metaphor for how His followers were to behave. Firstly, salt enhances food. It adds flavor, texture, and even vital nutrients. Simply put, food with added salt is generally better than food without any salt. Secondly, salt acts as a preservative. It’s one of the oldest and most common methods for preserving food. The salt draws out moisture, as well as acting as killing harmful microbes that would spoil the food. Thus food with salt is less likely to go bad.
When it comes to Christians in the world, Jesus expected His followers to make the world a better place through their speech and their actions. He also expected them to be life-preservers, teaching men the Gospel by which God brings salvation (cf. Romans 1:16).
But Jesus also had a warning.
Salt of that era was largely mined. Salt ore, like all ores, was seldom pure, and as salt is water soluble, aged salt, exposed to moisture could actually lose the salt leaving behind nothing but a collection of fine rocks. Such unsalty “salt” was not suitable for food and so it was tossed out on the road where at least the trace elements of remaining salt might still act to kill the grass.
So Jesus said, ““You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” (Matthew 5:13; NKJV)
Followers of Christ that fail to be a positive influence on the world around them are of no use to the Lord. As was noted initially, Jesus has high expectations of His followers.
Paul, picking up the same theme, urged the Christians in Colossians, “Let your speech always be with grace, seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought to answer each one.” (Colossians 4:6; NKJV) In a parallel passion to the Ephesians, he worded it thusly: “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearers.” (Ephesians 4:29; NKJV)
Our words can be powerful for both good and ill. Christ expects us to use our words to be a positive influence. They should be words that impart grace, words that build up and edify others, the should be words that are well chosen. They should be, in short, words that are seasoned with salt.
Again, remember that salt makes things better. It improves that to which it is added. If our words do not act to improve the world around us, then they are not the words Christ wants us to be speaking.
There are many ways in which our words can act as a positive influence on the world. They can be words of joy and encouragement. They can be words of hope and faith. They can be words of love and kindness. They should most certainly be words of truth and purity. (cf. Ephesians 4:25-32, 5:3-4)
Salt also works to remove those things that are harmful. In the same way, Christians are told, concerning their deeds and their words, “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” (Ephesians 5:11) Thus Jesus urged men to repent, lest they perish (cf. Luke 13:3). Loving, “salted” words are not words that encourage sin, rather they are words that encourage the right choices in life. (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:6).
We should, in life be choosing our words with care. A well-chosen word is a precious thing of great value (cf. Proverbs 25:11). This means that we should often be a bit slower to speak (cf. James 1:19). It certainly means that we should give thought to how our words are going to influence others, for good or for ill.
One of the best ways to learn how God would have us speak is through studying His word and learning how He communicated with us. The church of Christ invites you to study and worship with us at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.
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