We are Salt of the Earth…

March 24, 2009

Salt. Not much to think about. It’s white, tasty, useful, and cheap. Did you know it is a change agent? Did you know that it is one of the most widely used change agents? Did you know that it was Christ’s secret word for us to become change agents? No?

Salt is such a basic that we rarely consider the ramifications it has in the world. It touches so many things. Let’s look at some interesting salt facts:

· Salt is a commonly occurring mineral, the technical name of which is sodium chloride. It is the sodium part of salt that is important. The body needs a certain amount of sodium to function properly.

· Sodium helps to maintain the concentration of body fluids at correct levels.

· It also plays a central role in the transmission of electrical impulses in the nerves, and helps cells to take up nutrients. Salt plays an important part in the body’s main function in energy conversion-change.

· In various ages throughout history, salt was actually more valuable than gold. In fact, it was trade for gold.

· Slaves were traded for salt, which is where we get the aphorism, “not worth their weight in salt.”

· Salt was used to spice and preserve foods.

Not bad for a chemical compound you most likely thought very little of. Jesus, however, made it a point to mention in his Sermon on the Mount accounted for in Luke and John. The exact meaning of the expression salt of the earth is disputed, in part because salt had a wide number of uses in the ancient world. There are several different possibilities for the originally intended meaning of the salt metaphor:

  • Exodus, Ezekiel, and Kings present salt as a purifying agent
  • Leviticus, Numbers, and Chronicles present it as a sign of God’s covenant.
  • The most important use of salt was as a preservative and hence the most common interpretation of the metaphor is as asserting the duty to preserve the purity of the world.
  • In the Rabbinic literature of the period salt was a metaphor for wisdom.
  • Salt was a minor but essential ingredient in fertilizer and so a few scholars such as Gundry believe that earth should be translated as soil (i.e. salt of the soil), and hence the metaphor asserts that the audience should help the world grow and prosper.
  • One interpretation of salt of the earth is that it orders the audience to take part in the world rather than withdraw from it
  • Among the ancient Hebrews salt was used as a preservative, in seasoning food, and in all animal sacrifices. Lev. 2:13; Ezek. 43:24; Mark 9:49-50. So essential was it to the sacrificial ordinance that it was the symbol of the covenant made between God and His people in connection with that sacred performance. Lev. 2:13; Num. 18:19; 2 Chron. 13:5. [1]

Am I the only one amazed at the number of uses and Scriptural references to Salt? So why bring this up in a topic labeled “Change Agent?” The answer is quite simple and can be explained using an equation like this:

If Salt = Change Agent

Then we could substitute the variable in the verse to reflect the following:


Matthew 5:13-16:

You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its ability, how shall its saltiness be restored? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.


Matthew 5:13-16:

You are the change agent of the earth; but if the change has lost its ability, how shall its ability be restored? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid… Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

Christ was very intentional in most everything he said. He knew the meaning behind his statements and what is so funny to me is there are numerous songs, poems, books, and dissertations debating the meaning behind the use of the phrase, “salt of the earth.”

For our discussion it is quite simple. Salt is fairly basic, but is used in a variety of ways as a change agent. It is used in our bodies to change or help convert various elements of our body into energy. Salt is used the change various things in the earth but the ironic fact is that salt doesn’t change. Once formed, it holds its taste and its abilities. Even though it can be dissolved in water, salt does not change its chemical makeup. It is still salt. That is the beauty of this change agent.

One of the most trying situations for most novices in the area of becoming a change agent is that of solvency. Rather than serving as a real change agent, most of the time, through various trials, tribulations and influences, we become stagnant, ineffective, or just plain… bland. I have seen so many people who were fired up for a mission or directive provided to them by Christ. They would leave their mountaintop visit with a vision and soon lose it to the circle of buzzards, also known as committees. (That was not a stab, a group of buzzards are called committees… ironic, but true)

As a change agent, we are to be the salt of the earth, or better put, change for the earth. Salt is composed of sodium chloride and is extremely stable, thus, unable to lose its flavor. So salt that has lost its flavor cannot ever literally refer to actual salt. The most common explanation for this is that salt in the era was quite impure, not only due to extraction methods, but also due to unscrupulous merchants mixing it with other substances. So what was Christ implying? If salt cannot lose its flavor…

The words translated lost its flavor actually translate from the Greek as became foolish, but the Aramaic for both phrases is the same, and English language translators universally accept that the verse is talking about flavor rather than intelligence. Some scholars do however feel that this may be wordplay related to the Rabbinic use of salt as a metaphor for intelligence.

The other aspect to consider is there are two chemicals in salt: Sodium and Chloride. The chemicals are dynamic together. In order for salt to lose its flavor, something would have to be mixed in with it, in effect, slightly contaminating it or quite simply, making it impure. The same can happen in our lives when we get out of balance. Allowing various sins and distractions into our lives can essentially introduce various “impurities” to create some instability in our spiritual formula. In a sense, it dampens our ability to become true, stable, change agents (with taste).

Part of the manifesto for this book is to help all of us called to be change agents to focus on the qualities, characteristics, abilities, practices, and beliefs of the various change agents throughout the Scriptures. They changed their surroundings by answering the call. Some lost their flavor by introducing some impurities in their lives, but we will study the ways Christ calls us back to him.

If you go through Scripture like most do, you almost live for those characters who add a little spice to your reading don’t you? I wonder if they would be so “spicy” if they were unwilling to be change agents for God.

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About the Writer:

Trent Cotton has spent a number of years in management and business consulting. After spending some time in the field, he joined the HR department, beginning in recruiting and eventually serving as the Department Head of HR for one of the major lines of business. With such a varied background, he works to bring all of these together to help churches and other Christian organizations incorporate some common business practices into their ministries to enable them to better serve the Kingdom. He currently works for SourcePointe, an HR Outsourcing Agency while continuing to own and operate Christian Management Consulting as a ministry. In his free time, he also writes a lot on Church Development as a Church Consultant.

As a husband and father of three, Trent Cotton has a passion surrounding the role Christian Men are to play in their families, communities, churches and businesses.  This particular blog is dedicated to helping men take back the role that we have lost in society.



  1. Oh yeah!
    This the reason I got involved and politically active instead of being on the outside protesting. I want my salt to be in the dish that is my national (and international) life and politics is the “soup base” from which every other dish is made!

    So get salty and jump in the dish!

  2. […] Cotton presents We are Salt of the Earth… « Christian Men-Christian Warriors posted at Christian Men-Christian Warriors, saying, “Salt. Not much to think about. It’s […]

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