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  • Writer's pictureIan Gulland

Be Salty! (Feb 2023)

Few things in creation are more ordinary than salt.

Most of us have interacted with it in the last couple of hours, whether we realize it or not. We use it to make leather, pottery, soap, detergents, rubber, clothes, paper, cleaning products, glass, plastics, and pharmaceuticals. It sits largely unnoticed on hundreds of millions of café and restaurant tables around the world.

Unlike pepper, which is often sitting next to it, salt is essential for our health and has always been eaten by human beings wherever we have settled. We add it to so much of our food that many languages simply distinguish between sweet and salty flavours. We spread it across roads when it snows. More than half of the chemical products we make involve salt at some stage. And that’s without mentioning the trillions of tons of it that sit in our oceans, covering 70 percent of the surface of our planet.

Salt is everywhere.

Jesus loved using everyday items to communicate truths about God and his people, and his description of the disciples as “the salt of the earth” (Matt. 5:13) is arguably the best-known example. To this day, people use the phrase to describe good, honest, humble people. Less predictably, it also features as the name of a Rolling Stones song, a D. H. Lawrence poem, and an intriguing variety of products including deodorants, water softeners, and (bafflingly) wine.

Lots of us have heard explanations of what it means to be ‘salt and light’—our job is to make the world taste better or stop it from rotting. But, Jesus was talking about salt in relation to the earth, not food. Historically, salting the earth was something people did after destroying their enemies, rather than blessing them. Elsewhere in the Gospels, Jesus connects salt with fire and with living at peace together, neither of which seems to fit with the idea of tastiness or preservation. So what on earth is Jesus talking about?

The reason it’s confusing is that salt had a number of purposes in the ancient world. At least five of them are relevant to Jesus’s words about his disciples: salt was used for flavouring, preserving, sacrificing, destroying, and fertilizing.

Whilst metaphors can function in multiple ways, it’s helpful to keep things simple! Followers of Jesus are like salt: although we’re ordinary and everywhere and get involved in pretty much everything whether we’re noticed or not, we also have a variety of roles to play as God’s kingdom comes on earth. The encouragement from Jesus is to be salty (and light) to those around us.

If you want to know more about what this means you’re welcome to join us as we explore the bible and faith, which are intended to help us restore our saltiness!

“You are the salt of the earth,

but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Matt. 5:13)

Every blessing

Revd Ian

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