You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.
The phrase “You are the salt of the earth” is not a command that “you are to become the salt of the earth.” It is an indicative statement. It is what is true — whether you want to admit it or not. This is what you are. The only question is whether you will be effective or potent salt. There is the clear idea that if you do not do this salt work, then no one will and the world will lack the salt factor.
Jesus is exhorting them to be potent salt. He is stating a fact and then asking a question of those who are believers in God. If you are not salty and you are the salt, then you expect Jesus to talk about what happens to the world if the salt is not salty; but He does not. Instead He describes the consequences of what happens to the salt. It gets trampled; it gets thrown out.
This clearly is what is happening because the Christians and the Jews are not being salt. They are being thrown out and trampled. When you are no longer being what you are, then you are useless to have around.
The obvious question is what does salty salt do?
It seems most clear that Jesus seems to have in mind that salt preserves meat. It was the way to keep meat from spoiling so quickly — to rub salt into I, to soak it in brine. Christians are not to withdraw from the world in some holy huddle but to allow themselves to be rubbed into the life of the whole world. The ethical dimension of life must be constantly rubbed in. Rot is inherent in every piece of meat; do nothing and it will start. In the same way selfishness is inherent in every person; do nothing and it will spread and grow like a weed. The inherent selfishness in every heart must be beaten back; it must be contained or our cities will not be habitable. Our institutions will not be able to be trusted. It is believers in God and a final judgment who can agree that one should not be purely selfish.
We, as teachers of Christianity, must encourage Christians to be public servants so that the saltiness of our ethic will rub off. Selfishness must be identified and fought. It must be fought in our families, in ourselves, in our marriages, in our churches, in our work place, in our government. Each area needs to have people of salt who will call out the level of selfishness that seeks to bring the rot to the whole of the institution.
In what ways does God want you to be salt this week? Do not get mixed with the culture and corruption around you so that you are unable to say, “That is wrong — that is selfish.”
A fascinating observation is that Jesus makes this statement of the impact of godly people right after He has described the qualities of godliness. It is entirely possible that He wants us to realize that saltiness is the existence of the beatitudes in our life. We must have humility; brokenness (the ability to sympathize, empathize, and embrace the lessons of pain); meekness (a radical amount of personal flexibility); deep drive for righteousness; mercy; purity; the ability to bring harmony; willingness to sacrifice and be persecuted for what is right and for God. This is what the essence of saltiness is. It introduces into the society a needed element. When there are no people who have these qualities, then the society begins to rot from the microbes of selfishness that exist within everyone.
People spend their whole life worrying about making an impact with their life. Does my life count? Do I have any significance? But right here Jesus gives us the way to huge significance; to huge impact. Jesus says do you want to have impact with your life? Do you want to change the world? Then be the salt that you were meant to be. Allow these qualities to become who you are. Let God flow through you and cause you to be pungent, potent salt and you will have all the impact that you can handle. The impact of the average Christian is not fame, wealth, position, or power. It is salt and light. Do you want to be significant? Then be these qualities. Do you want to do something great for God? Become the living embodiment of these qualities.
Significance and impact are important. Will your life be drained away on shopping, eating, pleasure, and fruitless conversation or will you make a difference? Jesus is saying you were made to make a difference. People of faith were meant to make an impact through being these things within the whole of society. Surely they need to retreat to a holy huddle occasionally for refreshment, rest, and recharging; but they were meant to rub shoulders with people in the world who live for selfishness.
God says through the Apostle Paul that we are to manifest the sweet aroma of God wherever we go. This is what Jesus means about being salt.