Jesus told His disciples that they are to be the “salt of the earth” but what does salt of the earth mean in the Bible? How does that apply to us as believers today?
What Does It Mean to be Salt of the Earth?
In modern language, to be the “salt of the earth” means to be a good and honest person. It means that you have great value and worth. The phrase could also refer to people of humble backgrounds or beginnings.
All of these are exciting connotations but let’s go back to the Sermon on the Mount to understand what Jesus meant when He said we’re the salt of the earth. Jesus begins the Sermon on the Mount by giving the disciples a list of people who would be blessed:
- the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3)
- those who mourn (Matthew 5:4)
- the meek (Matthew 5:5)
- those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (Matthew 5:6)
- the merciful (Matthew 5:7)
- the pure in heart ((Matthew 5:8)
- the peacemakers (Matthew 5:9)
- those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:10-12)
You are the Salt of the Earth Bible Verse
At the end of this list, He tells the disciples:
“You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? Can you make it salty again? It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless (Matthew 5:13 NLT).
But why salt?
In this passage, the Greek word for salt is hálas, (pronounced hal’-as). Hálas literally translates to salt but could be used figuratively to mean prudence. Let’s pause here for a second. The Oxford Dictionary defines prudent as acting with or showing care and thought for the future.
Does that sound like a trait Christians should have? I think so. Especially in light of the beatitudes. The blessings that Christ offered to His disciples required a certain type of attitude. An attitude one might even call…prudence.
Uses of Salt
If I were to ask you to tell me some of the benefits of salt, you’d probably say things like
- to preserve food
- it adds flavor
- heals the skin
- is a pain reliever
Maybe you would even tell me that salt was used as currency in ancient cultures. You’d be right on all of those cases. But why would Jesus want His followers to be like salt?
Imagine if you will for a second, a world that is devoid of salt (or sodium as we may call it). What would our food taste like? What products would we no longer be able to produce?
Now imagine that Christians took Jesus’ word to be the salt of the earth literally. What if we found ways to flavor things and make them better? What if we preserved the standards of God? What if we lived in such a way that people wanted to be around us? That they craved to be in our presence? At the same time, what if we reminded ourselves that being salty is good, but only in moderation?
Too many times, as Christians we want to force our beliefs on others. And while Jesus charged us to be the salt of the earth, He didn’t want us to be salty in our characters. Don’t get me wrong, as Christians we must stand up for the Word of God, but we should do so in a way that draws people to our Heavenly Father and gives glory to Him. Not in ways that repel them and leave a bad taste in their mouths.
Salt of the Earth Bible Meaning
Did you know that Roman soldiers received a portion of their salary in salt? When Jesus told His followers that He wanted them to be the salt of the earth, it was because He wanted them to be of value and worth to those around them. Remember, salt in the time of Jesus was a commodity. It would have been precious to the people of that time.
That was why Jesus started the sermon on the mount with a list of attributes that were necessary for those who were considered blessed. The people would have understood that God wanted them to be better than they may have been to that point. They were to show mercy, be meek, and pursue God with their whole hearts. They were to be peacemakers, to endure persecution. Only then would they embody their worth as the salt of the earth.
So how does salt lose its savor?
It may seem amazing to us today to think that salt can lose its saltiness. But in the ancient world, what they knew as salt had not attained the purity of what we’re able to achieve today. As such, salt was sometimes contaminated with impurities that resulted in it being worthless. And tasteless.
Metaphorically, Jesus was telling His disciples that if they forgot their purpose on earth–to emulate the attributes of faith, then they would not be fulfilling their purpose. They would be worthless.
3 Ways to be the Salt of the Earth
My friend, Jesus’ admonishment applies to us too. He wants us to embody the beatitudes. He wants the attributes of Matthew 5 to be our attitudes. Here are three ways we can be the salt of the earth.
- Live God-honoring lives: The Bible is our instruction manual. It gives us clear instructions on what actions please God (1 Corinthians 10:31). When we live in a manner that brings glory to our Heavenly Father, we generate curiosity about Him. People want to know the reason we’re able to be joyful when life is hard. They want the peace that we have which gives us opportunities to introduce them to our Savior.
- Speak Truth: In a world where truth is becoming more and more relative, we have the privilege to speak the Word of Truth. Jesus is the truth and His truth leads to life (John 14:6). We can stand up for Him as we share His Word with the next generation.
- Serve others: One of the examples we learn from Christ is the importance of serving. As followers of Christ, we should serve others (1 Peter 4:10). Let us emulate Jesus by being kind and helping those in need. In doing so, we will show the love of God to the world.
Being the salt of the earth may not seem like an attractive thing because, in today’s world, salt is easily acquired and is often touted as something to avoid. But I hope this article made you realize how important salt was to Jesus. Will you choose to be salt, my friend?
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