What do these have in common: money, flavor, preservation, and fertilizer? In the world before refrigeration, it was so valuable that it was used as a medium of exchange. Authorities paid soldiers with it. The word for soldier is derived from this word. It is where we get the phrase, “Are you worth your salt?”
Salt flavors food. You likely have a saltshaker on your dinner table. When food is a less tasty than you desire, likely the first thing you think about is salt. Salt preserves food. Rubbing salt on meat and fish slows decay. Also small amounts of salt can be part of the fertilizing process to grow crops and gardens.
So, what did Jesus mean when He said, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13)? Remember, He was talking to His disciples who were already committed to Him. Jesus is describing with a powerful metaphor what it looks like to live as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven while living on the earth. Followers of Jesus are in the world but are not to be of the world. A boat is in the water, but it must not become of the water.
Since we are citizens of another world which Jesus calls “the Kingdom of Heaven,” then we are to live by heavenly principles. Our faith in Jesus is to pervade everything we do, like salt pervades the food we eat. We live in a world rotten and decayed by sin, so we are to preserve all that is godly, like salt preserves meat and fish. And like fertilizer, we are to enhance the growth of God’s kingdom of grace, mercy, forgiveness, and truth.
But we must be careful not to over-allegorize any one application. Perhaps it would be better to take them as a whole. Jesus said to His devoted disciples, “you” are the salt. Believers are necessary on earth to enhance and carry-out the good works of God’s Kingdom so more people will go to heaven and less people will go to hell. Get salty!