The Gospels record over 300 questions that Jesus asked during His ministry. Yet He directly answered only three of the 183 questions that people asked Him. Why? Perhaps because answers satisfy our curiosity and put our minds to sleep. Questions, on the other hand, stir up our thoughts, hassle our consciences and push us to find answers through deeper study. They encourage conversation and investigation. Good questions can be transformative. Jesus’ questions have the power to cut through our assumptions, prejudices and fears to show us what is truly in our hearts. If we prayerfully answer them, Jesus’ questions will transform us.
In Unsalty Salt, Part 1 we looked at what Jesus meant when He called His followers the “the salt of the earth.” We saw that the metaphor signifies our trust in God. It also highlights our mission to induce spiritual thirst in others and help them grow in Christ. In Unsalty Salt, Part 2 we look at what it means to lose our saltiness, how to make sure we stay salty and be a salt shaker.
Worthless Salt – The Danger
“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
Have you ever opened a container of table salt and found it tasteless? Probably not. The pure salt that we use each day is made up of sodium and chloride atoms (NaCl). It’s an extremely stable compound whose individual parts cannot be easily separated.
Is it even possible for salt to lose its flavor?
Turns out it can—if it’s not pure sodium chloride.
The salt used in Jesus’ day was either evaporated from sea water or mined from salt cliffs at Jebel Usdem near the Dead Sea. It was not pure NaCl. When exposed to water or moisture in the air, the salt could be dissolved out, leaving behind a tasteless, worthless, crystalline substance.
As Jesus said, “It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Luke 14:35
So what does it mean to lose our Christian saltiness?
It means losing our life-changing connection with Jesus. It is claiming the Christian name without living the Christian life. The apostle Paul described it as “having a form of godliness but denying its power.” 2 Timothy 3:5
How does it mean that?
Let’s review quickly what makes us salty Christians. (Read Unsalty Salt? Part 1 for more insight into what makes us salty Christians.)
Our saltiness begins with God’s covenant of salt with us. It is based on two things, 1) His goodness, 2) our trust in Him. It’s about having a relationship with Him. The Bible explains it this way:
“This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts… For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Hebrews 8:10, 12
Let’s break that down:
- God loves His rebellious kids—that’s you and I— so much that He sent Jesus to take the punishment we deserved (John 3:16). He is “merciful to our unrighteousness.”
- When we choose to trust Him and accept Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf, His blood “cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:8) and we are set free. “Our sins and our lawless deeds He will remember no more.”
- The transformative power of God’s love gives us new thoughts and actions. The sins we used to love no longer appeal to us when we compare them with the beauty of Jesus. God “puts His laws in our minds and writes them on their hearts.”
- Our joyous trust in God makes us salty Christians that create a thirst for righteousness in those around us.
“The savor of the salt represents the vital power of the Christian—the love of Jesus in the heart, the righteousness of Christ pervading the life.” Ellen White, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessings, p. 36
In contrast, unsalty salt “represents the life of every soul from whom the power of the grace of God has departed and who has become cold and Christless…” Ibid. p. 36
Flavorless salt is worthless because it is no longer effective. Do you see the parallel Jesus is getting at? If we lose touch with Him, we become ineffective and worthless.
“Without a living faith in Christ as a personal Savior it is impossible to make our influence felt in a skeptical world. We cannot give to others that which we do not ourselves possess. It is in proportion to our own devotion and consecration to Christ that we exert an influence for the blessing and uplifting of mankind. If there is no actual service, no genuine love, no reality of experience, there is no power to help, no connection with heaven, no savor of Christ in the life. Unless the Holy Spirit can use us as agents through whom to communicate to the world the truth as it is in Jesus, we are as salt that has lost its savor and is entirely worthless. By our lack of the grace of Christ we testify to the world that the truth which we claim to believe has no sanctifying power; and thus, so far as our influence goes, we make of no effect the word of God.” Ibid. p. 37
How to Get (and Stay) Salty
Salty Christians are inspiring. There’s no doubt about it. It’s a beautiful thing to see someone who is all out living for Jesus. But how can you and I become that kind of person?
Jesus tells us how in the three Gospel passages preceding His question about unsalty salt: Matthew 5:3-12, Mark 9:43-48 and Luke 14:25-33.
Matthew 5:3-12 gives us the progression of faith called the Beatitudes. They are Jesus’ prescription for being salty Christians.
Jesus starts with four essential attitudes that we need to cultivate:
- Sense our spiritual poverty
- Mourn for our sins
- Choose meekness (being teachable)
- Earnestly desire righteousness
Internalizing the four attitudes will transform our lives. We will become salty Christians who are:
- Merciful to those who hurt us
- Pure in thoughts, actions and motives
- Carriers of peace in the midst of conflict
The two other Gospel passages on salt are similar. In Mark 9:43-48, Jesus emphasizes the importance of cutting all sin out of our lives. And in Luke 14:25-33 He calls us to count the cost and forsake all for Jesus.
Jesus’ point is this: Salty living is an inside-out transformation that God works in us when we surrender all to Him.
So how do we make sure we are salty Christians? Everyday we prioritize time with Jesus in prayer and Bible study. We surrender our lives to Him and forsake our sins. We let Him transform us. Not because we have to, but because we love Him.
Then we simply let the joy of our relationship with Jesus spill over. We become salt shakers.
Shawna Hulsey has experienced much of God’s goodness and joyfully shares her faith at Blondies, her yogurt shop in Colfax, California. (read her story in Unsalty Salt, Part 1)
You might call her a salt shaker – someone who shares Jesus with everyone around.
But she wasn’t always like that.
In 2001 she was a grocery store clerk and pregnant with her first child. She believed in God, but didn’t know Jesus. And she definitely didn’t want anything to do with religion.
A young lady often came through Shawna’s check-out line with an assortment of unusual vegetables. “How do you fix this?” she asked one day as she weighed the lady’s eggplant.
“I can show you how,” Kimberly, the young woman, replied. Shawna accepted Kimberly’s offer and they struck up a friendship. Soon Kimberly and her husband invited Shawna and her husband to join them on a whale watching trip.
“I could tell they were Christians by the way they acted and talked,” remembers Shawna, “but they didn’t force it on me at all. They just waited for me to ask.”
Yet Shawna found herself inexplicably curious. Suddenly she blurted out, “If someone didn’t know anything about the Bible, what would you tell them?”
Kimberly didn’t have all the answers, but she gave Shawna a series of Bible prophecy videos. “I couldn’t watch them fast enough,” Shawna recalls. “They changed my life.”
Do you see it? Kimberly wasn’t just a salty Christian. She was also a salt shaker, sharing her faith with those around her. Her witness transformed Shawna’s life. Now Shawna is a salt shaker too.
Flavorful pink salt can’t help the minestrone as long as it stays in the salt shaker. But stir in a spoonful and a bland pot of soup is transformed into something delicious.
Salty Christians don’t do much good if they keep Jesus to themselves. But take a Christian who is in love with Jesus, give her a chance to share her faith, and watch the transformation that begins in the lives of those around her (or him).
Salty Christians are contagious.
“You are the salt of the world. If the salt loses its flavor, how will it be salted? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men.” Matthew 5:13.