You are the salt of the earth – Just what does that mean?
Jesus said to his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.”
Fr. Bob gave an excellent homily this morning that I will try to recreate here.
Calling us “light” is something most of us can comprehend. Our actions shine forth for all the world to see, and hopefully our actions are even brighter because they are good actions. Others can be inspired by our example.
But what about “salt?” What does it mean to be “salt of the earth?” I am taking an Introduction to Sacred Scripture class this semester, and one of the things we are learning about this ancient, holy text is that context is everything. The Bible was written 2000-3000 years ago. The culture was a lot different then. We need to take a peek into the ways of that time to understand the phrases we read in the Bible.
Even in today’s society salt has many uses. (Here are Sixty Uses for Table Salt.) But how did the ancients use salt?
Salt was in use long before recorded history. Since the dawn of time, animals have instinctively forged trails to natural salt sources to satisfy their need for salt. Ancient man the hunter obtained his salt from eating animal meat. As he turned to agriculture and his diet changed, he found that salt (maybe as sea water) gave his vegetables the same salty flavour he was accustomed to with meat.
Over many millennia, he learned how salt helped to preserve food, cure hides and heal wounds. Nomadic bands would have carried salt with them and traded it with other bands for different goods. (http://www.saltsense.co.uk/history01.php)
There is a need for salt in our diet, and as man became less and less nomadic, he needed to make his own salt. Salt-making became its own industry and salt was used extensively in trade and as payment for labor. As a result, salt had great value in ancient societies, especially since it was less accessible than it is today.
The Bible contains numerous references to salt. In various contexts, it is used metaphorically to signify permanence, loyalty, durability, fidelity, usefulness, value, and purification. It was also used as a component of ceremonial offerings, and as a unit of exchange.
Ye are the salt of the earth. Salt preserves from corruption. As the disciples of Messiah we are to preserve the world from general corruption. Whatever becomes utterly corrupted is doomed to be destroyed. Just like food left out on the counter, our world is corrupt and doomed for destruction unless we do something about it. (http://www.jewishjesus.org/Article21.html – this is a very good article)
So we are to preserve the world from corruption. How exactly are we to do that? By remaining in the world and letting our “light” shine. The salt and the light work together in harmony. We need to keep our contracts and covenants and help others to see that their covenants are binding as well. We also need to share the Word of God and pray that more and more hearts will be converted to the Truth. Only God can change hearts, but it is our job to plant some salty seeds and watch God make them grow.