YOU ARE THE
SALT OF THE EARTH
(Leviticus 2:13; Colossians 4:6)
Don't miss a the key principle in
Jesus' metaphors of salt and light. Citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven
impact society because they are different (not weird or bizarre but
distinct) from the Kingdom of this World. When salt and light try to
accommodate to and/or be conformed by the Kingdom of this World, they
lose their distinctiveness and their potential to impact the decay and
the darkness of the this world which is passing away. In the Revelation
John records the triumphant cry when
"the seventh angel sounded; and there
arose loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world
has become the kingdom
of our Lord, and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever."
Until then God has left believers
in the Kingdom of Darkness and Decay to dispel the darkness and retard
decay, as peacemakers giving out the word of reconciliation (2Cor
5:14-21), a word which in some will birth new life and to others will
cause them to hate and persecute you (John 3:19-21, Mt 5:10, 11, 12-see notes
Mt 5:10; 11; 12, Lk
6:22). Persecution for the sake of Christ and the Kingdom of Heaven
therefore becomes a sign that one truly belongs to the glorious coming
Kingdom of our Lord (cp Ro 8:16, 17, 18-notes
Ro 8:16; 17;
18). Beloved, don't let this world
squeeze you into it's mold (Ro 12:2-note)
Charles Simeon writes...
LITTLE does the world think how much
they are indebted to those very saints whom they “revile and persecute
for righteousness’ sake.” (Mt 5:11) The extirpation of them (which is
so much desired by many) would leave the world an entire mass of
corruption, without any thing to heal its disorders, or to stop its
progress towards utter destruction. Were they removed out of it, the
rest would soon become as Sodom and Gomorrah (Is 1:9). The
representation given of them in the text fully justifies this idea. They
are called “the salt of the earth.” This, of course, must be understood
of those only who have the spirit of religion in them: for all others,
whatever they may possess, are as vile and worthless as the real
Christians are good and excellent.
The words before us will lead us to
consider, the worth and excellence of truly spiritual Christians— The
use of salt, as intimated in this expression of our Lord, is to keep
other things from putrefaction and corruption. This is the office that
has been executed by all the saints of old— [View them from the
beginning; and they will all be found active in their generation, and
zealous in benefiting the world around them. Noah preached to the
antediluvians an hundred and twenty years, indefatigably exerting
himself to bring them to repentance. Lot, in Sodom, “vexed his righteous
soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds,” and strove to turn the
people from their horrible abominations. All the prophets in successive
ages laboured in the same blessed work, using all their efforts to lead
their hearers to the knowledge of the only true God, and to an obedience
to his holy laws. How the Apostles acted in relation to this, it is
needless to observe. They lived for no other end, but to make known the
way of life, and to “turn men from darkness unto light, and from the
power of Satan unto God.” (Read the entire sermon -
Matthew 5:13 Christians the Salt of the Earth - Goto Page 79)
Stuart Weber introduces this
section with the following comment...
In Matthew 5:13, 14, 15, 16, before
embarking on the body of the sermon, Jesus explained in two word
pictures the impact that a truly righteous person will have on his or
her world. The entire sermon, including the Beatitudes before and the
many teachings after, shows us how to live as "salt and light" in the
world as representatives of another kingdom. These word pictures also
serve Matthew's purpose—to encourage believers to change their world
(Matt. 28:18, 19, 20). (Weber,
Stuart, Max Anders, Ed: Holman New Testament Commentary: Matthew
Broadman & Holman)
Dave Guzik summarizes Mt
5:13-16 writing that...
A key thought in both the
pictures of salt and light is distinction. Salt is needed
because the world is rotting and decaying and if our Christianity is
also rotting and decaying, it won't be any good. Light is needed
because the world is in darkness, and if our Christianity imitates the
darkness, we have nothing to show the world. To be effective we must
seek and display the Christian distinctive. We can never affect
the world for Jesus by becoming like the world. The figures of salt and
light also remind us that the life marked by the beatitudes is not to be
lived in isolation. We often assume that those inner qualities can only
be developed or displayed in isolation from the world, but Jesus wants
us to live them out before the world.. Jesus points to a breadth in the
impact of disciples that must have seemed almost ridiculous at the time.
How could these humble Galileans salt the earth, or light the world? But
they did. Jesus never challenges us to become salt or light. He simply
says that we are - and we are either fulfilling or failing that
responsibility. (Matthew 5)
THE SERMON ON THE
You [emphatic: you
alone] are the salt of the earth. "You", not governmental
institutions, not educational institutions, not organizations, but "you"
and "you alone" are the salt of the earth.
Note that in this section Jesus
shifts from "those" ("blessed are those...") to the second person "you".
He shifts from character to
influence of this character.
The point is that those who live out the
Beatitudes (Mt 5:3-12) in the power of the Spirit, not might be, but
actually are "the salt of the earth". How do we
know that is what He means? "Are" is in
which is the mood of reality. In other words, they really are
the specific salt factor in this world. Furthermore, the
expresses a constant condition and
indicates that saltiness is to continually be the lifestyle of every citizen of the
Kingdom of Heaven every day of their life on earth.
Think of the implications - you have a great purpose in God's plan and
you have it all the time in every place you go! It does not matter
whether you are rich or poor, highly educated or not, tall or short,
etc, etc. You are an invaluable pawn in God's great chess match! What an
incredible privilege citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven have been granted
by their King, Jesus Christ! This is privilege we should not only
cherish but one that should also create in us a sense of divine
accountability. We are stewards of salt so to speak and one day we will
give an account for how salty we were (cf 2Cor 5:10). The King does not
give us an option at this point but calls us to a central responsibility
to be salt to the world about us. How are you doing? Are you really
living like a Christian? Are you using your money like a Christian? Are
you talking like a Christian? Are you conducting your family like a
Christian? Are you using your leisure time like a Christian? Does the
language change when you are around? Does the attitude of the workplace
improve because you work without complaining, you show up on time, you
treat everyone with kindness, you refuse to enter into gossip?
In Jesus' prayer (the real "Lord's
Prayer") to His Father, He explains why believers are not just
automatically jettisoned up to heaven when they are saved. We have a
distinct purpose as He relates in His prayer...
"I have given them (those who
are "the salt") Thy word; and the world has hated them (cf persecution
5:12), because they are not of the world (explains "why" the poor
in spirit, mourning, meek ones are persecuted), even as I am not of the
world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them
from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of
the world. Sanctify (set them apart from the world) them in the truth;
Thy word is truth. As Thou didst send Me into the world, I also have
sent them into the world." (John 17:14-18)
There it is, Jesus' disciples are
sent into the world to be "the salt" in the world (note how often
"world" is repeated in this passage).
The renowned Baptist pastor,
George Truett once said...
"You are either being
corrupted by the world or you are salting it."
Jesus' declaration of the state
of believers leaves no room for a middle ground.
is used instead of ‘world’ as a
for the people of the world
(halas) is natural salt which purifies, cleanses, preserves from
corruption. Clearly Jesus intends a
terms of comparison simile metaphor)
Salt was one of the
earliest of all preservatives and was a valued commodity in the ancient
world. Without any source of refrigeration, salt became the means of
preserving meat from decaying, as the ancients rubbed down meat and fish
to preserve it for regular use. Seafarers just a century ago would salt
down their fish and meat to preserve them for the long transatlantic
journeys. Salt was so important as a corruption preventative in the
ancient world that wars were fought over it, and entire economies were
based on it. In short, salt could literally make the difference between
life and death in a time when fresh food was unavailable.
The Greek writer Plutarch said
that meat is a dead body and part of a dead body, and will, if
left to itself, go bad, but salt preserves it and keeps it fresh, and is
therefore like a new soul inserted into a dead body. Dead meat left to
itself went bad, but, pickled in salt, it retained its freshness. The
salt seemed to put a kind of life into it. The point is that salt
Salt was used as a figure of speech
in the ancient world of sparkling conversation, speech dotted with witty
or clever remarks. In
Colossians 4:6 (note), salt indicates speech which gives a
flavor to the discourse and recommends it to the pallet as well as speech
which preserves from corruption and renders wholesome
The Greeks called salt "charitas" (grace) because it gave flavor to things. Our speech must not
be corrupt (Ep 4;29-note) and salt (God's grace) holds back corruption. A
thoughtless word of criticism, a questionable remark, an angry word—any
of these could tear down in a minute whatever Christian testimony others
have tried to build up. No believer ought ever to say, “Now take this
with a grain of salt!” Instead we need to put the salt into our speech!
When we wish to stress a
person's solid worth and usefulness we often say "That person is the
salt of the earth."
Salt was a valuable commodity in the dry Middle East and was used to
barter. Our English word “salary” comes from the Latin salarius
(“salt”). A person lacking integrity might have mixed white sand with
the salt and then had more for trade. But salt mixed with sand lost some
of its salty quality and became useless.
Christians are to be the "salt
of the earth".
Salt acts secretly. We know that
it combats decay, though we cannot see it perform its task. Its
influence is very real nonetheless.
Spurgeon comments that...
Our Savior was speaking of the
influence of his disciples upon the fellows, and he first of all
mentioned that secret but powerful influence which he describes under
the figure of salt: “Ye are the salt of the earth.” No sooner is a man
born unto God than he begins to fellow-men with an influence which is
rather felt than seen. The very existence of a believer operates upon
unbelievers. He is like a handful of salt cast upon flesh; he has a
savor in himself, and this penetrate those who are in contact with him.
The unobserved almost unconscious influence of a holy life is most
effectual to serving of society and the prevention of moral
putrefaction. May there be salt in every one of us, for “salt is
good.” Have salt in yourselves, and then you will become a blessing to
all around you.
J Vernon McGee has a pithy
("peppery") note on Christians as salt writing that...
God’s people in any age and
under any condition are both salt and light in the world. The Scots
translate “savour” by the more expressive word tang. I like their word
much better. “If the salt has lost its tang.” The problem today is that
most church members have not only lost their tang as salt, but as pepper
they have lost their pep also. We have very few salt and pepper
Christians in our day. Now salt doesn’t keep fermentation and that type
of thing from taking place, but it will arrest it. You and I ought to be
the salt in the earth and have an influence for good in the world.
J V: Thru the Bible Commentary Nashville: Thomas Nelson)
Barclay explains that...
In the ancient world salt was
highly valued. The Greeks called salt divine (theion).
The Gospel of Matthew The New Daily
Study Bible Westminster John Knox Press)
The domestic and medicinal value
of salt both as condiment and preservative was as universal in the
ancient world as it is today. Pliny declared that "salt has something of
the nature of fire", and he quotes a current saying, "To the whole body
nothing is better than
sun and salt"
Lasting alliances or covenants
were made by eating bread and salt, or salt alone (Aristotle).
Cato, Virgil, and Pliny all refer
to the ability of salt to improve the productivity of the soil.
Dwight Pentecost gives an
excellent summary of some of the Biblical uses of salt...
Salt has been valued from time
immemorial. Roman soldiers were paid in salt and, if one were derelict
in his duties, he was said to be "not worth his salt."
Salt was used throughout ancient
societies as a sign of friendship, (Ed note: see
The Oneness of Covenant: Friend) a concept that continues to
the present day. In the Arab world, if one man partakes of the salt
of another man, that is, eats a meal with him, he is under his
protection and care. If a man's worst enemy came into his tent and ate
of his salt, he would be obliged to protect and to provide for him as
though he were his dearest friend.
Out of that idea grew the concept of a salt covenant, referred to
in 2 Chronicles 13:5 (cf Nu 18:19), where God speaks of a covenant of salt made with
David. Before the days of a notary public who could authenticate the
legality of a document, when two men entered into a business agreement,
they would haggle over terms until they had settled on the agreement.
Then they would eat salt or portions of food together; eating
salt bound them together in what they called a salt covenant.
This covenant established a contract that was not to be broken.
God prescribed salt as a necessary part of the sacrifices.
"Every oblation of thy
meat-offering shalt thou season with salt; neither shalt thou suffer the
salt of the covenant of thy God to be lacking from thy meat-offering:
with all thine offerings thou shalt offer salt" (Lev 2:13, cf
Ezekiel 43:23, 24, Ezra 9:9, 10).
God said that if they left salt
out of their offering to God, it was an unacceptable offering. The
offering demanded the whole, and the offering was incomplete without
Job refers to salt as a
necessary ingredient of food as he asked the question,
"Can that which is unsavory be
eaten without salt? or is there any taste in the white of an egg?" (Job
As early as Job's time, men
recognized the importance of salt, and attached special significance to
J. D. Design for living: Lessons in Holiness from the Sermon on the
Mount. Kregel Publications)
Someone has said that there
are some 14,000 industrial uses for salt! And frankly, this is where
we must sound a note of caution...interpretation of metaphors can be
"tricky" especially if the expositor has a vivid imagination.
Unfortunately, such interpretations may not be what God really intended
by using a given metaphor like "salt". For example, some say salt was
white and then reason that this whiteness pictures purity (and even
compare it with purity of heart in Mt 5:8). Now while there may be some
element of truth in such an interpretation, that is probably not the
primary message Jesus intended to convey to His audience. Let's think
for a moment about the context. Jesus is speaking in a time when there
were no ice makers or refrigerators. There was need for a simple method
of preservation of foodstuffs from decay and corruption and this was the
primary function of salt. In fact the only way to preserve meat in
the hot climate of Palestine was to salt it or soak it in a salt
solution. This practice is still common in many remote areas of the
world. It follows that the primary interpretation of the meaning of the
metaphor of salt is that it speaks of a preservative agent which impedes
corruption, decomposition and decay. The world, in contrast to what many
"enlightened" members teach, is not evolving but devolving. The world is
not going toward order but disorder. It is slowly decomposing and
What happened when God left the world
to itself after the fall of Adam? Several centuries passed until we come
to Genesis 6...
Then the LORD saw that the
wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the
thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
Even the "salty effect" of Noah
was not enough to preserve the world and impede the moral decay and
spiritual rot, Peter recording that as a result God...
and did not spare the ancient
world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven
others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly;
Even with another chance man fell
into total debauchery leading to the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah
which God again condemned
to destruction by reducing
them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live
ungodly thereafter (2Pe 2:6-note)
So history proves the point that
our world continually tends toward decay not divinity. Enter the
citizens of the Kingdom of heaven who are the decay retardants and
preservatives of a disintegrating world. Thus even as salt arrests decay
in meat or fish, the influence of Christian character can halt the
downward spiral of the world and help to stem the natural degeneration
that occurs in the world’s rebellion against God. Christians have a
moral influence on the world around them, affecting every part of
society. If you are not having a moral influence on those around you
then something is gravely amiss in regarding your morality, for as Alan
Redpath once said...
If it is possible for your
closest contacts to be neutral about Christ then there is something
wrong with your Christianity.
Sinclair Ferguson explains the
preservative effect of salt noting that...
it calls for radical and costly
application. Christians whose lives exhibit the qualities of the
'blessed' will have a preserving impact upon a society that, if left to
itself, will rot and deteriorate. Without the influence of the gospel,
society will suffer moral decay and become putrid, unfit for the
consumption of good men and women... It is all too easy for us to
despair as Christians because of our frailty and insignificance,
personally or numerically. However, we must never give in to Satan's lie
that we can be effective only when we have large numbers and a show of
strength. Jesus' illustration of salt is an encouraging reminder that
the apparently cheap and insignificant can influence its environment out
of all proportion to our expectation.
Sometimes this happens on a national scale. It is said, with some
justification, that the only thing that saved England from a revolution
as horrible and bloody as the French Revolution was the evangelical
revival under the preaching and teaching of men like John Wesley and
George Whitefield during the eighteenth century.
More frequently it will happen on a small scale: your companions will
moderate their language; the name of Jesus will not be so easily
blasphemed; those with whom you work will develop something of a
conscience about the standard of their work; the conversations of men or
women will be brought under control; respect for others will be more
common. Your life will save others from yielding to the immoral
pressures by which our contemporary world is characterised. When you
are the salt of the earth, you preserve society.
Sinclair: Sermon on the Mount :Banner of Truth)
Christians make plenty of
negative comments and vent tons of frustration over the putrefaction of
our society. But our culture is simply doing what comes natural, rotting
because it has no preservative. As hard as it is to admit, we should
quit leveling the blame of decadence on pagans and start asking why the
Church is not more effectively preventing decay (especially of our
ethical and moral values) from accelerating and exerting an ever
increasing negative influence in our society. A
Christian should be in the world and yet not of the world. How can this
be? Consider the fish who, though he lives in the salty sea, does not
As John Stott points out,
“And when society does go bad, we
Christians tend to throw up our hands in pious horror and reproach the
non-Christian world; but should we not rather reproach ourselves? One
can hardly blame unsalted meat for going bad. It cannot do anything
else. The real question to ask is: where is the salt?” (Stott,
John: The Message of the Sermon on the Mount: 1978, Intervarsity Press)
The impact of salty Christians has
effected entire countries. Consider impact of the First Great Awakening
(revival) on England at a time when the rest of Europe was embroiled in
political upheavals. Even secular writers acknowledge that it was
because of the impact of salty Christians like John Wesley and George
Whitefield that England was spared the effects of the horribly bloody
revolution that swept through France (see
French Revolution) in the
late 1700's. Salty believers
really do prevent from corruption and decay!
Phil Newton tells an
encouraging story about the "after taste" left by "salty" missionaries
Pastor Paul Ndungu from Kenya,
told us of a missionary couple that served for fifteen years among a
particular people group in Kenya without seeing any outward response. He
said they labored faithfully, serving the people, teaching the gospel,
and doing all they could to set Christ before these people. But none
responded until a couple of days after their departure. The missionary
family’s maid, two gardeners, and milkman converged upon the empty
house, related how they now missed these Christians. All wept about this
sense of loss, and reflected upon what they saw in them and what they
had taught them. One by one they called upon the Lord, coming to faith
in Christ. The church among that people group was born without a
missionary but not without the salt and light influence of that
Christian family that lived among these people for fifteen years,
faithfully living unto the Lord. What they did not accomplish with their
missiological approach they accomplished by being Christians in a
decaying world. (Matthew 5:13:
Problem of Tasteless Christianity)
Barclay writes that...
The individual Christian must be
the conscience of his fellows; and the church the conscience of the
nation. The Christian must be such that in his presence no doubtful
language will be used, no questionable stories told, no dishonourable
action suggested. He must be like a cleansing antiseptic in the circle
in which he moves. (Barclay,
W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press
Hughes explains that...
This matter of being a
preservative has a positive and a negative side. On the negative side,
the presence of a salty Christian will retard decay simply because his
or her life is a reproach to the sin of those they are around. We all
know there are certain people in whose presence a filthy story is
naturally told, and there are others before whom no one would think of
telling such a story. The salty Christian is not self-righteous or
condemning, but his or her life makes ungodly conversation seem shabby
and inappropriate. I believe such Christians exert an incalculable
influence on society! Their mere presence reduces crime, restrains
ethical corruption, promotes honesty, quickens the conscience, and
elevates the general moral atmosphere. The presence of such people in
the military, in business, in education, in a fraternity or sorority
will amazingly elevate the level of living. And their absence will allow
unbelievable depths of depravity. Believers, salty believers, are the
world's preservative. The question we must ask ourselves is, what
happens when we get to know people without Christ? Does it make a
difference in their lives? Are we salt? (Hughes, R. K.
Sermon on the Mount: The Message of
the Kingdom. Crossway Books)
John MacArthur offers two
excellent illustrations of the leavening effect of salty "salt"...
Andrew Murray lived an
exceptionally holy life. Among those on whom his influence was the
greatest were his children and grandchildren. Five of his six sons
became ministers of the gospel and four of his daughters became
minister’s wives. Ten grandsons became ministers and thirteen
grandchildren became missionaries.
Woodrow Wilson told the story of
being in a barbershop one time.
"I was sitting in a barber
chair when I became aware that a powerful personality had entered the
room. A man had come quietly in upon the same errand as myself to have
his hair cut and sat in the chair next to me. Every word the man
uttered, though it was not in the least didactic, showed a personal
interest in the man who was serving him. And before I got through with
what was being done to me I was aware I had attended an evangelistic
service, because Mr. D. L. Moody was in that chair. I purposely
lingered in the room after he had left and noted the singular affect
that his visit had brought upon the barber shop. They talked in
undertones. They did not know his name, but they knew something had
elevated their thoughts, and I felt that I left that place as I should
have left a place of worship."
1-7 Macarthur New Testament Commentary Chicago: Moody Press)
John A. Huffman, Jr describing
the body of Christ said...
"This sanctuary can be a salt
shaker. You can come in here once a week, have a lot of fellowship with
all the other salt and think your job is accomplished. Instead, God
wants to pick up this sanctuary and shake you out all over this city. He
has brought you together as His salt only to scatter you. He wants you
to be an influence for Jesus."
Salt sitting in a salt shaker
will never exert its preservative effect until it is shaken into the
decaying world. As A T Pierson said...
We are not responsible for
conversion, but we are responsible for contact.
Jesus calls His loyal subjects
to be pungent people who penetrate every level of society. Are you
sitting or shaking? Be careful not to lose your saltiness.
It's amazing what a pinch of
salt can do to bring out the flavor of food. A big bowl of popcorn is
absolutely bland without salt. Christianity is to life what salt is to
unsalted popcorn!. Christianity gives flavor and seasoning to life. But
too much salt can be distasteful.
Even a little salt will make
itself known as history as proven. One of those shining examples was a
man named William Wilberforce, a small, even somewhat distorted man who
took up a career in politics eventually gaining election to the House of
Commons in England. He subsequently became a citizen of the Kingdom of
Heaven in 1784, at age 25 proved his saltiness by taking an active stand
against the slave trade despite repeated defeats in parliament. William
Wilberforce died on 29th July, 1833. One month later, Parliament passed
the Slavery Abolition Act that gave all slaves in the British Empire
their freedom. He was a little salt that made his present felt. It has
been documented that 0.04 ounces of table salt dissolved in 530 quarts
of water can be tasted!
Ferguson adds that...
'Seasoning' society is not
a matter of being Scrooge-like personalities whose presence brings a
pall of depression and whose entrance marks the exit of joy. On the
contrary, the presence of God's people should 'increase the flavour' of
life in many different ways. After all, we come to our friends,
neighbours, co-workers, or fellow students as those who have been – and
still are – in the presence of Jesus Christ, who has given us abundant
life (John 10:10). Everything about us should express the attractiveness
as well as the holiness of our Lord. (Ferguson,
Sinclair: Sermon on the Mount :Banner of Truth)
Barclay reasons that...
Food, without salt, can be
revoltingly insipid. The Christian, then, must be the man who brings
flavour into life. The Christianity which acts like a shadow of gloom
and a wet blanket is no true Christianity. The Christian is the man who,
by his courage, his hope, his cheerfulness and his kindness brings a new
flavour into life. (Barclay,
W: The Daily Study Bible Series. The Westminster Press
What's the effect of Christians
who fail to express the fullness of joy found in an abundant life? We
never know who is observing our life! Oliver Wendell Holmes once said...
"I might have entered the
ministry if certain clergymen I knew had not acted and looked so much
Paul picks up the theme of saints
as salt in society writing to the Corinthian saints (who lived in a
metropolis that desperately need their "salt")...
But thanks be to God, who always
leads us in His triumph in Christ (the picture of this Greek word is
that of a victorious general, home from the wars, leading a triumphal
procession through the streets of Rome. The captives and spoils of war
would precede him, and he would follow in a chariot, a slave holding
over his head a jeweled crown. Then would come the victorious army), and
manifests (cause to become visible = external manifestation to
senses open to all = make visible that which has been hidden primary
reference is to what is visible to sensory perception) through us the
sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place. For we are a
fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved (present
tense salvation = sanctification - see
Three Tenses of Salvation)
Christians are those who are being saved) and among those who are
perishing (destruction but not annihilation and basically has to do
with that which is ruined and is no longer usable for its intended
purpose); to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma
from life to life. And who is adequate for these things? (1Cor 2:14-16)
Paul's point is that we are to
live the Christ life (for example characterized by the be attitudes).
Not everyone will respond favorably to our life as we have seen in (Mt
As we have often heard, you can
lead a horse to water and yet not make him drink. However add a little
salt to his hay and you will "encourage" him to drink. Is your witness
making unbelievers thirsty?
At a missionary meeting some
young people were discussing the text, "Ye are the salt of the earth."
One suggestion after another was made as to the meaning of salt in this
verse. "Salt imparts a desirable flavor," said one. "Salt preserves from
decay," another suggested. Then at last a Chinese Christian girl spoke
out and shared an experience none of the others had shared. She said,
"Salt creates thirst." There was a sudden hush in the room. Everyone was
thinking, "Have I ever made anyone thirsty for the Lord Jesus Christ?"
Here are a couple of resources you
might want to examine for guidelines on how to be salty salt...How
Can I Break The Silence?
How Can I Share My Faith Without An Argument?
Paul explains that citizen's of
the Kingdom of heaven need to have salty speech exhorting believers
Let your speech always
(not just most of the time but at all times, whether addressing a group
or speaking to your neighbor) be with
grace (speaking what is spiritual, wholesome, fitting, kind,
sensitive, purposeful, complementary, gentle, truthful, loving,
thoughtful), seasoned, as it were, with salt (it has a pungent
effect as salt when rubbed in a wound, it prevents corruption and has a
purifying influence on filthy conversations, it adds flavor and is not
empty or insipid but thought provoking and relevant), so that you may
know how you should respond to each person (know how to say the right
thing at the right time to the right person). (see note
That Paul intended our speech to have
a preservative effect we note the parallel passage in Ephesians...
Let no unwholesome (rotten,
corrupt, putrid) word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as
is good for edification (building up) according to the need of the
moment, that it may give grace to those who hear. (see note
Ferguson adds a very
important qualification regarding salty speech noting that...
Speech is like salt: too little,
and we do not taste the flavour of the food; too much, and we are left
with the unpleasant taste of the salt. Like salt, our lives and our
speech are to bring out the 'flavour' of Jesus Christ. Too much of
ourselves – too much of our talk – will likewise leave an unpleasant
taste. Be like Christ, then, lest others are not able to tell the
difference between the salt and the meat, between the poverty of our
witness and the goodness of the Lord Jesus they are invited to taste
(Ps. 34:8 -
See Spurgeon's comment). (Ferguson,
Sinclair: Sermon on the Mount :Banner of Truth)
Oswald Chambers comments
Some modern teachers seem to
think our Lord said "Ye are the sugar of the earth," meaning
that gentleness and winsomeness without curative-ness is the ideal of
the Christian. Our Lord's illustration of a Christian is salt, and salt
is the most concentrated thing known. Salt preserves
wholesomeness and prevents decay. It is a disadvantage to be
salt. Think of the action of salt on a wound, and you will realise this.
If you get salt into a wound, it hurts, and when God's children are
amongst those who are "raw" towards God, their presence hurts. The man
who is wrong with God is like an open wound, and when "salt" gets in
it causes annoyance and distress and he is spiteful and bitter. The
disciples of Jesus in the present dispensation preserve society from
corruption; the "salt" causes excessive irritation which spells
persecution for the saint.
How are we to maintain the
healthy, salty tang of saintliness? By remaining rightly related to God
through Jesus Christ. In the present dispensation, Jesus says, “The
kingdom of God cometh not with observation: . . . for, behold, the
kingdom of God is within you.” Men are called on to live out His
teaching in an age that will not recognise Him, and that spells
limitation and very often persecution. This is the day of the
humiliation of the saints; in the next dispensation it will be the
glorification of the saints, and the Kingdom of God will be outside as
well as inside men. (Chambers, O. Studies in the sermon on the
mount. Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott)
Phil Newton issues a poignant
challenge by way of a modern day prophet Dr Gresham Machen writing
Gresham Machen, in the last century,
“Let us stop soothing ourselves with
columns of statistics and face the spiritual facts; let us recall this
paper currency and get back to a standard of gold” [God
a collection of 20 of his sermons with the final four sermons preached
in the last four Sunday's of Dr Machen's life! "The Bible and the Cross"
was preached 5 days before he died Jan 1, 1937!].
Though written half a century
ago, Machen spoke like a prophet to our present day that values the
showy, glitzy statistics of how many nickels and noses we have in our
churches, but gives precious little attention to holiness in character
and walk. Have we forgotten that it was a Rome that claimed grand
statistics as a “Christian empire” that fell to the barbarians? While
the show and numbers meant so much to the church in that day, the
saltiness in society was lost so that the barbarians easily conquered
them. Professing Christians failed to live like Christians, and their
whole society crumbled. “You are the salt of the earth” is a truth to
cherish, a reality to live in day after day, and a necessity for a
civil, peaceable society.
Characterized as good and
Leviticus 2:13; Ezekiel 43:24
Numbers 18:19; 2 Chronicles
Partaking of another’s a
bond of friendship
Lost its savour when exposed
to the air
Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50
Joshua 11:8; Zephaniah 2:9
Near the Dead Sea
Numbers 34:12; Deuteronomy 3:17
Places where it abounded
barren and unfruitful
Jeremiah 17:6; Ezekiel 47:11
The valley of, celebrated
2Samuel 8:13; 2Kings 14:7;
MIRACLES CONNECTED WITH
Lot’s wife turned into a
Elisha healed the bad water
Places sown with, to denote
Liberally afforded to the
Jews after the captivity
Ezra 6:9; 7:22
Of grace in the heart
Of wisdom in speech
(Without savour,) of
Matthew 5:13; Mark 9:50
(Pits of,) of desolation
(Salted with fire,) of
preparation of the wicked for Destruction
BUT IF THE
SALT HAS BECOME TASTELESS, HOW WILL IT BE MADE SALTY AGAIN?
9:49,50; Luke 14:34,35; Hebrews 6:4-6; 2 Peter 2:20,21)
Become tasteless (3471)
(moraino from morós = foolish) can refer to physical sloth
or dullness, but the main reference is to intellectual life.
carries the idea of ‘to play the fool’ or ‘to become foolish’ and in a
sense isn't that what Christians are doing when they lose their
saltiness by playing the fool for the world or ignoring Christian
disciplines or giving in to lusts or disregarding warnings about sin? In
the present passage moraino is used more figuratively meaning to cause
something to lose its taste or purpose for which it exists.
For the disciples, the salt of
the earth, to lose their saltiness was equivalent to becoming foolish.
It would in effect be to lose their identity.
In secular Greek it took on various
meanings in different contexts. Thus it meant insipid of
insufficiently seasoned foods.
Pure salt cannot lose its savor
("saltiness"), but the salt commonly used in the ancient world was rock
salt, containing various impurities (especially gypsum). As the true salt was leached away,
or otherwise removed, the so-called "salt" could indeed lose its savor
and become tasteless. When those who profess to be Christians cease to
be different from the world, we cease to be useful as retardants
of decay. Jesus emphasized that our ability to preserve the world in
order that it may see Christ in us depends on our being different. It is
dangerously easy for Christians to lose their salty, preserving
influence in the world. Remember that many people who never read the
Bible are constantly reading us! If our conduct is untrue to our
calling, our words will avail very little. Gospel preaching
without holy, supernatural living is futile.
Warren Wiersbe in his preface
Holy", an exposition of
Whatever else the professing
Christian church may be known for today—great crowds, expensive
buildings, big budgets, political clout—it’s not distinguished for its
holiness. Bible-believing evangelical Christians make up a sizable
minority in the United States, but our presence isn’t making much of an
impact on society. The salt seems to have lost its saltiness, and the
light is so well hidden that the marketplace is quite dark. (Wiersbe,
W. W. Be Holy. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books)
Phil Newton illustrates
becoming tasteless relating that he knew of...
two men, one a theologian and
another a pastor that was arrested in two different parts of the country
for perverted, immoral behavior. That is the extreme, I grant you, yet
it is not something that we can take lightly
or think we are immune to in our own lives. Our propensity for sin is
great; so we must constantly be anchored in the cross of Christ and His
gospel. They have lost their saltiness in the world. But many more do
that without ever being arrested for a crime. Complaining Christians are
tasteless Christians. Those that are lazy, undisciplined, arrogant,
prideful, critical, mean-spirited have lost their pungent influence upon
the world about them. How about your pungency? Are you salty where God
has put you? Or have you so given in to the world that you are in danger
of becoming tasteless to a world that desperately needs your saltiness
in Christ? (Problem
of Tasteless Christianity)
Salty Salt. The story has often been told about Dr. Will H. Houghton, who
pastored the Calvary Baptist Church in New York City and later served
as president of Chicago’s Moody Bible Institute till his death in
1946. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in
Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr.
Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective
was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton’s life matched his
preaching. As a result, that man became a Christian.
Wiersbe summarizes salt and
light noting that...
Salt speaks of inward character that
influences a decaying world; light speaks of the outward testimony of
good works that points to God. Our task is to keep our lives pure that
we might “salt” this earth and hold back corruption so that the Gospel
can get out. Our good works must accompany our dedicated lives as we let
our lights shine. (Wiersbe,
W. W. Wiersbe's Expository Outlines on the New Testament. Wheaton, Ill.:
S. Lewis Johnson quipped that
"Often the only version of the
Bible the world reads is that of the believer's life, and, if that is
true, in the light of the weakness of the church's testimony today
surely the world could use a revised version!"
Vance Havner reminds us
We are the salt of the earth,
not the sugar, and our ministry is truly to cleanse and not just to
change the taste.
Too many Christians live their
Christian lives inside their heads; it never gets out through hands and
feet and lips.
Salt must be brought into close
contact with whatever it is meant to affect if it is to do any good.
Christians are the salt of the earth. We must be willing to be rubbed
into the decaying carcass of an unregenerate society. Most of us are
content to sit on Sunday in our little salt‑shakers, far removed from a
needy and lost humanity. A box of garden seeds looks very attractive
with its pretty colored packages but those seeds must be emptied from
the pretty packages into the dirty earth to die and come up again if we
are to have anything to eat. Christians look pretty enough in church on
Sunday morning but "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die,
it abideth alone. ." (John 12:24).
George Barna alludes to
another potential source of tasteless salt noting that
four out of ten people who call themselves evangelical Christians don't
believe there is such a thing as absolute truth. Barna concludes...
"That's the heart of the problem
we're struggling with. Think about the implications for evangelism,
personal spiritual growth, and having a church that really is the salt
and the light. It's pretty frightening."
UBS Handbook notes that the
phrase "become tasteless"...
is difficult to interpret. Salt
that is used for food does not lose its taste or its saltness even if
unused for a long period of time. This expression must therefore refer
to the salt being diluted or somehow mixed with other substances so that
it becomes ineffective. (Newman,
B. M., & Stine, P. C. A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew. UBS handbook
series New York: United Bible Societies)
Made salty (233)
(halizo from háls = salt) means to season or sprinkle with salt.
To preserve by salting. There is also one figurative use as discussed
There is only one other NT use of
halizo by Mark...
Mark 9:49 For everyone
will be salted with fire. (Halizo is used figuratively in this
passage. That's the easy part. The interpretation is not absolutely
certain but it could refer to God's judgment which is like fire, and
everyone suggest will be applied chasten believers while they are on
earth, test the worth of the "works" of believers at the Judgment seat
and to punish unbelievers. There may be an association with the use in
Leviticus [see below] so as the Old Testament priests salted the animal
sacrifices, so God will season His living sacrifices with fiery trials
to purify their faith.)
Wuest comments on Mark 9:49:
Verse 49, taken in its context, reaches back to the unquenchable fire of
Gehenna (v. 48), and forward to the self-discipline of verse 50.
Expositors says: “Every one must be salted somehow, either with the
unquenchable fire of Gehenna or with the severe fire of self-discipline.
Wise is he who chooses the latter alternative.” Robertson reminds us of
the fact that the Lord Jesus once called His disciples the salt of the
earth (Matt. 5:13). He warns them now (v. 50) not to lose their
K. S. Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament: Eerdmans
There is one use of halizo in
Leviticus 2:13 'Every
grain offering of yours, moreover, you shall season (Lxx =
halizo) with salt (literally "salt with salt"), so that the salt of the
covenant of your God shall not be lacking from your grain offering; with
all your offerings you shall offer salt.
Marvin Vincent commenting on "tasteless"
lost his savour)
The kindred noun (moros)
means dull, sluggish; applied to the mind, stupid or silly; applied to
the taste, insipid, flat. The verb here used of salt, to become insipid,
also means to play the fool. Our Lord refers here to the familiar
fact of salt losing its pungency and becoming useless. Dr. Thompson
(“The Land and the Book”) cites the following case:
“A merchant of Sidon, having
farmed of the government the revenue from the importation of salt,
brought over a great quantity from the marshes of Cyprus — enough, in
fact, to supply the whole province for many years. This he had
transferred to the mountains, to cheat the government out of some small
percentage of duty. Sixty-five houses were rented and filled with salt.
Such houses have merely earthen floors, and the salt next the ground was
in a few years entirely spoiled. I saw large quantities of it literally
thrown into the road to be trodden under foot of men and beasts.
It was ‘good for nothing.’ ”
(Vincent, M. R. Word
Studies in the New Testament Vol. 1, Page 3-39) (Bolding added)
Vance Havner has some
salty words on how to be salty Christians (keeping in mind that the
primary function of salt in Jesus' day was preservation and which
undoubtedly was His main meaning, although it does not preclude some of
these other nuances of significance - the danger with metaphors is that
we take them further than God intended, so keep that in mind as you read
this and any commentary on the meaning of "salty Christians")...
It might have seemed ridiculous
to a casual bystander for Jesus to say to a handful of ordinary men,
"You are the salt of the earth and I am sending you out to permeate
and infiltrate and season the whole world." Yet that
little band, that pinch of salt, started something that has
survived the centuries and changed the history of mankind.
Our Lord used the simplest figures of speech. Nothing is plainer, more
universal and old‑fashioned than salt. It is such a common commodity
that we take it for granted, but if suddenly no salt could be had, what
a difference that would make! What would life be without salt! A little
boy said, "Salt is what tastes bad when you don't have it." Christians
are the salt of the earth and we ought to make a difference.
1. Salt has a seasoning influence. There ought to be a flavor, a
tang, a relish, and a zest about us Christians. Someone has said that
our main trouble today is not that our doctrine is false, but that our
experience is flat.
2. Salt preserves. Civilization has been saved from destruction
by the restraining influence of the Holy Spirit in Christians. Salt
prevents decay and restrains corruption. One godly person in a group
will restrain evil conversation.
3. Salt purifies and cleanses. The best gargle for a sore throat
is plain salt water. The church of Jesus Christ has had a purifying
influence wherever it has gone. You may think that your community is in
a bad state, but take out the church and you would not want to live
4. Salt heals. Lives are changed, souls saved, homes rescued from
disaster, broken hearts mended, sorrows eased, burdens lifted, sick
bodies and minds made well because of the antiseptic and therapeutic
power of the Holy Spirit working through God's people, the salt of the
5. Salt creates thirst. God's people should develop in the hearts
of men a desire to know God. We ought so to live that others would want
the peace and joy they see in us. Does anybody want to be a Christian
like you? The best argument for Christianity is a Christian.
6. Salt irritates. When the salt of God's truth is rubbed into
this diseased old world, sick souls may smart. When the light is turned
on, some will wince. The devil hates the Gospel and fights back.... We
are not the sugar of the earth‑nor the vinegar‑but we are salt and we
will not be welcomed by a generation full of wounds, bruises and
We need to get into the salt business and we must start with a few. This
is God's program today. It sounds old‑fashioned, but salt is
old‑fashioned, sin is old‑fashioned and so is the Gospel. We have been
tickling palates with fancy flavors, spicy relishes, and clever
recipes borrowed from the world. Too many pulpit gourmets and
theological epicures with menus from Hollywood are trying to
please the jaded appetites of a fed up humanity. We need old‑fashioned
salt, and if we do not start producing more of it in our churches, we
shall be good for nothing but to be cast out and trodden under foot of
Albert George Butzer said
"Some Christians are not only
like salt that has lost its savor, but like pepper that has lost its
Does God Ever Restore One's
Kent Hughes addresses the
question "How will it be made salty again?" asking...
Can a church be re-salted? The
Lord brought this question up when he asked,
"How can it be made salty
As we have said, salt cannot lose its saltiness, and therefore
it cannot again be made salty. I believe Jesus is talking about salt
that is so adulterated it has lost its preservative powers. In the
context of His times Christ is saying that if salt has lost its savor,
there is no natural hope for it. Is there any hope for us if we have
become desalted? The answer is no - not in ourselves anyway. However,
Jesus extends the metaphor into the supernatural, and here we must say
that the answer is yes! Jesus is not saying that if a Christian loses
his pungency, he cannot get it back, even by going to the source from
which it came. Nothing but our own sin can keep us from being resalted.
I once met a man who, in his sixties, was re-salted. He told me about
how his life had become bland and insipid, and then he was confronted
again with the necessity of a vital life for Jesus Christ and committed
his life to him. For the next ten years of his life he was incredibly
salty in the world. The effect of his life is literally known by
thousands. So one can be re-salted! (Hughes, R. K.
Sermon on the Mount: The Message of
the Kingdom. Crossway Books)
In Genesis 20:1-18,
Abraham illustrates one who for a time lost his savor when he
went to Gerar (capital of the Philistine colony on the seacoast) and
lied to the pagan king Abimelech about Sarah, telling the king she was
his wife. Abraham became tasteless salt for a time -- how could
he talk to the pagan King about His God of truth when he himself was
living a lie? And yet even while still in Gerar, Abraham was apparently
"re-salted" supernaturally as evidenced by his interceding with God for
Abimelech's life (see Ge 20:7). Surely this indicates that Abraham had
confessed his sin and God had restored him (cf Ps 66:18, 19). Also see
the testimony of the pagan king in Ge 21:22 "God is with you in all that
you do". This further supports that God had restored His erring saint to
In Mark 9:50 Jesus tells His
disciples who in context had been bickering over which one was the
greatest (Mk 9:34, cf their attempt to hinder another believer Mk
"Salt is good (kalos =
beautiful, attractive); but if the salt becomes unsalty, with what will
you make it salty again? (the idea is "you" cannot but it leaves open
the possibility that God can supernaturally) Have (continually be having
salt in yourselves, and be (continually be =
at peace with one another."
So Jesus does leave open the
possibility that although man can in no way "re-salt" savorless salt,
God can just as He did in the case of Abraham's life and in the life of
every believer who is willing to walk in the light as He Himself is in
the light. That believer will find that the blood of Jesus God's Son
will continually cleanse him from all sin. (1John 1:7) Thus cleansed and
"re-salted", he can function as salt in society.
Notice also the phrase "be at
peace with one another" in (Mark 9:50). In context this suggests
that one of the conditions of continually having saltiness is that we
are continually at peace with our brethren!
IT IS GOOD FOR
NOTHING ANYMORE, EXCEPT TO BE THROWN OUT AND TRAMPLED UNDER FOOT BY MEN
Spurgeon comments that...
A professing Christian with no
grace in him,-a religious man whose very religion is dead,-what is the
good of him? And he is himself in a hopeless condition. You can salt
meat, but you cannot salt salt.
There are people who believe
that you can be children of God to-day, and children of the devil
to-morrow; then again children of God the next day and children of the
devil again the day after; but, believe me, it is not so. If the work of
grace be really wrought of God in your soul, it will last through your
whole life, and if it does not so last, that proves that it is not the
work of God. God does not put His hand to this work a second time. There
is no regeneration twice over, you can be born again, but you cannot be
born again, and again, and again, as some teach there is no note in
Scripture of that kind. Hence I do rejoice that regeneration once truly
wrought of the Spirit of God, is an incorruptible seed which liveth and
abideth for ever. But beware, professor, lest you should be like salt
that has lost its savor, and that therefore is good for nothing.
[word study] from is = strength + écho = have) means to
be strong in body or in resources and so to be worth something, to have
efficacy, to avail, have force and value
(oudeis from ou = not + dé = but + heis =
one) means literally " but absolutely not one", denying absolutely and
objectively the possibility that it can be used again
Without saltiness, salt is
worthless. Without Christian character, Christians are worthless to the
society in which God has placed them.
NET notes feel that...
With this illustration Jesus
warned about a disciple who ceased to follow him. (Biblical Studies
Press. NET Bible)
Trampled under foot (2662)
(katapateo from katá = down or used to intensify meaning +
patéo = tread, trample, fig to treat contemptuously;
Here is a sad example of tasteless
says in his autobiography that in his student days he was truly
interested in the Bible. Deeply touched by reading the Gospels, he
seriously considered becoming a convert, since Christianity seemed to
offer the real solution to the caste system that was dividing the people
of India. One Sunday he went to a nearby church. He decided to see the
minister and ask for instruction in the way of salvation and
enlightenment on other doctrines. But when he entered the sanctuary, the
ushers refused to give him a seat and suggested that he go worship with
his own people. Gandhi left and never came back. He reasoned that...
"If Christians have
caste differences also, I might as well remain a
The partiality showed by those Christians had a devastating
effect on India and the world. As we have studied, they failed to
manifest the sweet aroma and saltiness of the fifth beatitude,
demonstrating mercy (Mt 5:7-note)
Mahatma Gandhi was also quoted as answering a missionary's question
"What is the greatest hindrance to Christianity in India?" with the
trite reply "Christians"!
In his pithy, penetrating devotional Daily Walking with God,
Octavius Winslow (1808-1878) has the following thoughts on
Matthew 5:13 ...
You are the
salt of the earth. Matthew 5:13
WHEN our Lord reminds His
people that they are "the salt of the earth," He describes the gracious
state of all real believers. The grace of God is that "salt," apart from
which all is moral corruption and spiritual decay. Where Divine grace
exists not, there is nothing to stunt the growth, or to check the
progress, or to restrain the power, of the soul's depravity. The
fountain pours out its streams of corruption and death, bidding defiance
to all human efforts either to purify or restrain. But let one grain of
the salt of God's grace fall into this corrupt fountain, and there is
deposited a counteracting and transforming element, which at once
commences a healing, purifying, and saving process. And what parental
restraint, and the long years of study, and human law, had failed to do,
one hour's deep repentance of sin, one believing glance at a crucified
Savior, one moment's realization of the love of God have effectually
accomplished. Oh the intrinsic preciousness, the priceless value, the
sovereign efficacy of this Divine salt—God's converting, sanctifying
grace! Effecting a lodgment in the most debased and corrupt heart, it
revolutionizes the whole soul—changing its principles, purifying its
affections, and assimilating it to the Divine holiness.
Thus all true believers in Jesus, from their gracious character, are
denominated "the salt of the earth." And why so? Because all that is
divine, and holy, and precious, exists in them, and in them only. It is
found in that nature which the Holy Spirit has renewed, in that heart
which Divine grace has changed, in that soul humbled in the dust before
God for sin, and now, in the exercise of faith which He has given,
reposing on the atoning work of Jesus, exclaiming—
Other refuge have I none,
Hangs my helpless soul on you
There, where God's love is felt—there, where the Holy Spirit is
possessed—there, where the Savior's atonement is received, and His image
is reflected—there is found the precious "salt of the earth." The world
does not know it, and even the lowly grace may be veiled from the eye of
the Church—few mark the silent tear, or see the deep prostration of the
Spirit before the Lord, or are cognizant of its hidden joy, or measure
the extent of the holy influence, noiselessly yet effectually exerted;
but God, looking from His throne of glory through the ranks of pure
intelligences that encircle Him, beholds it; and in that humble mind,
and in that believing heart, He sees the divine and precious "salt,"
which beautifies, sanctifies, and preserves the world. He sees true
holiness nowhere else; He recognizes His own moral image in no other.
The Christian is emphatically "the salt of the earth."
F B Meyer in his book The
Directory of the Devout Life has a chapter entitled...
BEING IS DOING. Our greatest
work for God and man is to be. The influence of a holy life is our
greatest contribution to the salvation and blessing of the world. Though
you cannot preach, or teach, or engage in some sphere of Christian
service, do not be greatly moved, if only you can live the life of God
amongst men. Our Lord for thirty years was content to live an absolutely
holy life, as the Lamb of God without blemish and without spot; and His
supreme work in the world was not only to give His life as a ransom, but
to live His life that He might leave us an example that we should follow
in His steps.
Too many Christians seem to
suppose that the main object of life is to engage in a sphere of direct
service, whilst they leave their personal character to take care of
itself, and to develop almost at haphazard; whereas our main thought and
care should be that Christ should be formed in us, and be revealed in
every look and gesture, every word and act. Out of that will come
naturally, inevitably, and blessedly, our direct Christian service. The
best work is that which arises out of the simplicity and beauty of our
witness for truth and love.
We must, of course, guard
against extremes. On the one hand, we may attempt so much service as to
neglect that inner culture which is priceless in its effect on service,
and our personal inconsistencies will neutralize the effect of our
Christian activities. On the other hand, we may sincerely believe that
we are cultivating our character, when, in fact, we are sinking into a
dreamy lethargy, from which we need to be aroused by the trumpet-call of
duty to a dying world. We are apt to forget that the development of the
inner life is not perfect, unless it issue in such going about doing
good, as was the flower and fruit of our Saviour's thirty years.
Though Persecuted. Our Lord had
been describing the reception which the type of character that He had
come to implant would certainly encounter. Instead of attracting men by
its heavenly beauty, it would certainly repel them. Instead of
commendation and welcome, it would arouse dislike and rebuff. The great
world of men would not appreciate the poor in spirit, the mourner, the
meek and merciful, the pure in heart or maker of peace, but would
reproach, and persecute, and say all manner of evil falsely. But,
notwithstanding all, He insisted that they should continue to bless the
world by the silent and gracious influence of holy lives. Reviled, they
must bless; persecuted, they must endure; defamed, they must entreat;
threatened with death, they must still be as salt to their persecutors,
and as light to their defamers.
However men receive our
testimony, whatever they may say and do against us, notwithstanding the
unreasonableness of their dislike, we must continue to be what our Lord
would have us be, nay, we must let Him who is within us shine forth
through us, so that men may be compelled to admit that the unearthly
beauty of our lives is the supreme proof of the divinity and glory of
You ask what is the good of
being good. Your detractors and oppressors vaunt themselves over you,
take every advantage of your quiet, unresisting gentleness, and
misinterpret your self-restraint. It would almost appear that they are
driven to greater extremes of wickedness because of the provocation of
your goodness. The soldiers of the Roman governor probably never mocked
one of their ordinary victims as they did the holy, unresisting Saviour.
The gentle and loving wife will sometimes extract the most malignant and
bitter hatred of her husband, such as he would show to no other. But you
do not know how your behaviour is beginning to thaw that iron-frozen
soil, how often and deeply compunction is at work, or how nearly the
hatred of your oppressor is being overcome by love. The spring warmth
may seem to fall on the frozen masses of snow and ice in vain, but every
hour of sunshine is sapping the reign of the ice-king, and hastening the
inevitable break-up of his supremacy.
That workingman who has borne
the insults of his shopmates for Christ will presently have the
ringleader come to beg his pardon, and with tears in his eyes ask him to
pray for him. That oppressed wife will have the pleasure of leading her
penitent husband to the cross. That sister will be won by her sister,
who has borne contumely and reproach with unswerving gentleness. Be of
good cheer, your sufferings will have their most blessed result in
overcoming evil by good, as we have said. Remember, the Apostle speaks
of "the kingdom and patience of Jesus," which means that patient
suffering ultimately secures a blessed supremacy, a royalty, an
over-mastery of hardness and unkindness by gentleness, truth, and love.
When the Forth Bridge was in
making, the workmen came to a crucial point, where two of the most
important iron girders refused by some inches to come together for the
bolts to be driven through, a process which was absolutely essential to
their union and the stability of the whole fabric. Every mechanical
method to bring them together was tried with no purpose; and finally, in
despair, all further efforts were abandoned for the night. It was summer
weather, and the sunshine of the following morning was very hot, so much
so that the great masses of metal expanded beneath the genial rays, and
the results were achieved by the silent touch of the sun which had
defied the utmost efforts of force. So in human life. Consistency of
character, purity, gentleness, sweetness, such holy living as issues
from the qualities which our Lord has enumerated, will avail when the
keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men will bow
The Lord knew well the condition
of the world. To His holy and unerring judgment it was a carcase slowly
rotting to putrefaction, and sorely needing some influence to stay its
corruption. There was never an epoch in the world's history fuller of
dazzling genius than that in which He was born. Some of the most
brilliant names of history were shining still in the midnight sky when
the bright and morning star arose over Bethlehem. But the grossness of
the age was unparalleled and indescribable. The allusions made to it in
the Epistles are sufficiently terrible, but the whole truth is only
revealed in classic literature itself, which survives to show that the
earth was corrupt before God, and that every imagination of the thoughts
of man's heart was only evil continually.
In our Lord's eyes, also, to
advert to the other metaphor, the world lay under the power of thick
darkness. In its wisdom it knew not God. Professing themselves wise, men
had become fools. The god of this world had blinded the eyes of those
who believed not, and they groped in the noontide as in the murky
midnight. Such has been, is, and will be, the condition of men without
the Gospel. The history of the human family is always repeating itself.
We cannot be surprised either at the description given by missionaries
of the awful condition of heathen countries, or at the outbreaks of
lawlessness and crime in nations which are only nominally Christian. Our
inventions, organizations, and boasted civilization, may affect the
exterior of our society, but if it were not for the presence of the
Church of the Lord Jesus, and the witness borne by the lives and words
of her members, there would be nothing to save it from the pit of
corruption, which has swallowed up every great nation that has risen to
lead the race.
Men rage against "Exeter Hall,"
and revile what is called "the Nonconformist Conscience," as they did
against the Puritans in bygone centuries, not realizing that they evince
the antagonism of corruption to the salt, and of darkness to the light,
and that the very existence of our society is more largely due than they
suppose to the very elements they so much dislike.
Our consistent holy living will
act as an antiseptic to arrest the corruption around us. It is said that
the presence of a little child, with its blue-eyed simplicity and
purity, has often arrested the commission of dark crimes; and as much
should be said of the influence of our own daily living. A sudden
silence should fall on certain kinds of conversation when we enter the
room. This or the other form of worldly amusement, which has entered
professedly Christian homes, should be felt out of place when we are
staying there. And right through the society in which we move there
should be a consciousness that there is an incongruity between our
character and all that savours of impurity, falsehood, or selfishness.
We do not want to impose a sense
of restraint and gloom on social gatherings when we enter. Our presence
should be an incentive to the merriment of the children, the cheer of
the depressed, the gladness of young and old. Flowers should burst into
beauty at our steps, songs should overflow in our paths, and innocent
laughter should be our accompaniment. The mountains and the hills should
break forth before us into singing, and all the trees of the field
should clap their hands. Instead of the thorn should come up the
fir-tree, and instead of the briar the myrtle-tree. But to all that is
unseemly and unworthy our presence should act as an antiseptic.
A young boy, fresh from his
mother's teaching and prayers, was plunged suddenly into a large
lawyer's office, where he was articled. At first he was bewildered by
his strange surroundings, then the crimson mantled his cheek, and tears
brimmed in his eyes. "What's the matter with you, youngster?" said a
coarse voice. "Do you want to go back to your mother's apron-strings?
.... No," was the reply, "but we never said such things in my mother's
home as you say here." The answer elicited a burst of laughter, but the
head of the office said: "Gentlemen, this lad is right, and as long as
he stays with us I must request that you modify your speech." And from
that moment the whole tone of that office was altered. The lad's
presence acted as salt.
We may easily lose our savour.
Salt left in contact with a damp soil ceases to be salty, and is good
for nothing but to be trodden under foot. It is neither fit for the
ground nor the dunghill. Lot lost his savour. Sodom went on its way,
regardless of his presence in its midst. The Seven Churches of Asia lost
their savour, and, with those of Northern Africa, were trodden down by
the Moslem. Nothing is so useless and worthless as an inconsistent and
powerless Christian (Ezek. 15:3-5). Oh, break your heart if sin is as
shameless and reckless in your presence as in your absence! What have
you done to forfeit the power you should exert? Repent, and do the first
works! Yea, ask the Lord Jesus to infuse into you His own strong, sweet,
pure nature, before whom the demons were driven forth, and by whose
presence, through His Church in the world, an arrest has been placed on
many of those grosser forms of sin which disgraced the world of His
time, and still hold sway in countries where His name is not known.