What is something that is equally likely to be found in your home’s garage, medicine cabinet and on your kitchen table? If you said “salt” you are correct. Salt is useful for a multitude of purposes such as melting ice to make our walkways safe, relaxing our tired feet in a saltwater bath and brightening the taste of our favourite pasta dish. Salt is a mineral that God created for our use and enjoyment here on earth; God also fittingly shows us in his Word how salt is to be made a part of our ongoing spiritual life and development.
God introduces salt into practice in Leviticus 2 as a necessary element of the grain offering. Grain offerings were a means to present the Israelite’s finest flour and baking to the Lord and as food to bless the priests. The need for salt is unequivocally described in verse 13, “You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.” (ESV) Do not forget the salt!
Why was this of such importance to the offering? Pure salt, although somewhat common, took considerable effort and cost to obtain. Then there was the time to assemble the offering’s ingredients (flour, oil, frankincense), and in some instances bake the unleavened bread and then bring the completed offering to the tabernacle. How does this compare to the offerings we bring before the Lord? Do we start every morning by assembling our time, thoughts and attitudes in a spirit of humility and awe before him? Do we bring our best heart and clearest voice to worship in church? Or do we sometimes leave out our salt? The praise we offer to our Lord should take our strongest energy and purest resources as we give back to him a portion of the life he grants to us each day. Let’s ensure that we have a healthy amount of salt invested in our offerings to yield a brighter relationship with our God.
God’s Word recorded in the Bible provides us with much instruction about our spoken words and actions. Jesus sits on the mountainside speaking to his disciples and the great crowds who had followed him through Galilee. Jesus has just proclaimed the Beatitudes; perhaps he pauses for a moment to let his words sink in and give time for thought. He then carries on with his sermon, “You are the salt of the earth …” Matthew 5:13 (ESV). Did he fix his eyes on his disciples and point at them as he pronounced what they are to be to the world? What would your thoughts have been upon hearing Jesus give you that charge? Thankfully, Jesus continued with his teachings and commandments which gave his disciples then, and us now, plenty of direction about living a life as salt of the earth.
A key characteristic of this life as salt is found in our speech. You may have heard the expression that someone speaks with “a lot of salty speech”. We can sometimes put too much salt into the words we say and write. Paul in his writings to the Colossians highlights that the believers in the church have great opportunity for interaction and influence in their local community. “Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of your time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.” Colossians 4:5-6 (ESV). We are to be deliberate and intentional about seasoning our discourse so our answers and responses are appropriate.
Just as a good cook will taste test their cooking and add more salt when necessary or, thin it out if too salty, we are to apply the same amount of diligence to our words before they leave our mouths. James devotes a significant portion of his writings to the power that is wielded by the tongue. His visual and sensory descriptions of the tongue are a vivid representation of the impact that our speech and words have on our surroundings. From starting a forest fire, being a deadly poison, blessing and cursing, the tongue is capable of perfection and immense destruction (James 3:1-10). There is a sense of loss as James concludes that “Neither can a salt pond yield fresh water.” James 3:12 (ESV). Can our mouth become such a salty stew that it is no longer capable of fresh, cool and pure words? Only by having a heart that is filled with the wisdom coming from reading and following God’s word will we be salt that is good for the world. The best way to ensure a proper salt balance is to be continually taking in the truths of the Bible. These will form the foundation of our speech and release us to disciple, encourage and refresh the people who hear what we say, and read what we write. As Proverbs 16:23 tells us, “The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips” (ESV). Let us be aware of the healthy amount of salt that is needed – whether it be a simple ‘pinch’ or a full teaspoon - to season our speech each time we make ourselves heard. God will grant us the wisdom and words we need if we go to him.
So, the next time you are seated at the dinner table and reach for the salt-shaker pause for a moment and ask yourself – was I salt to the world today as Jesus directed or just salty?
PS. For another account of salt in the Bible read about Lot in Genesis 19. There is the obvious reference in the outcome for his wife but by reading the words which were spoken one is able to see that this tragedy would have turned out differently if Lot had salted his speech with truth.