Reflection: After describing the Christian life in the beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-10), and then explaining how it will sometimes be perceived (verses 11-12), now Jesus begins to explain how ‘righteousness’ can change the world. He uses two metaphors: salt (which we will look at today) and light (tomorrow).
The first thing to note is that Jesus says “yous”—not “you” singular, but “yous” plural. He is talking about the Christian community as “salt” because of its way of life.
But what does the metaphor of salt actually mean? Salt had three uses in Jesus’ day. It was (a) a seasoner in food (just like today); (b) it preserved meat (in an era without refrigeration); and (c) it was a purifier (people literally rubbed it on their skin as a cleanser). So, what does Jesus mean by calling his disciples the “salt of the earth”? Are Christians the seasoning of the world? Do we preserve culture from going rotten? Or are we a cleansing, purifying element in society?
Jesus’ meaning must have been clear to the first hearers but, unfortunately, there is there is no agreement among scholars today. It might be best just to say that Jesus wanted his followers to be a positive blessing in the world, just like salt was. Actually, the classic English expression that comes from this passage probably captures the thought well enough: when we describe someone as “the salt of the earth”, we just mean they are ‘good stuff’. God’s people are meant to be the good stuff of the world.
Question: Given what Jesus has been saying in the Sermon on the Mount, what do you think is the ‘saltiness’ he refers to? How can we be sure not to “lose” it?