In his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) Jesus tells his followers: “You are the salt of the earth.” Eugene Peterson’s translation in The Message highlights Jesus’ intent. “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the god-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.”
Succinct, isn’t it? Last week I visited a spice shop where I discovered some twenty different types of salt. Which led me to ponder, I wonder what type of salt Jesus meant! There was kosher salt, lemon, garlic, pink!, sea, chocolate sea, lime and chili lime. There was salt from the Mediterranean, salt from Mexico, from the Asia and the southwest. There were cooking salts, and finishing salts, and dessert salts. An amazing variety. So, if I am salt, what type would I be? Hmmm…
Actually, we get sidetracked when we personalize Jesus’ rejoinder to be salt. It has become common for to interpret his comment on salt to think of people who are especially good. That can belie how strange this comment would have sounded to the first listeners. Peterson’s translation gets at it better when he uses “salt-seasoning.” Still, substitute another seasoning and it comes into even clearer focus: “You are to be a red hot pepper for the whole earth!”
Jesus’ point is not about the status of his followers, as if to say “You are the world’s ethical elite.” Rather his point is about the function of his followers, “You must add zest to the life of the whole world.” The tense of the verbs he uses makes his point an imperative and corporate. “You are salt, yes, but for the earth, not for yourselves, not for a closed fellowship.” He is already anticipating the Great Commission and the then of the gospel, when he will send his followers into all the world.
So, how shall we season the world with the zest of Jesus today?
Join us in worship Sunday to further “mine” the salt of Jesus’ saying.