If you peruse the isles of any grocery store long enough, you’ll quickly recognize American’s love-hate relationship with salt. In the crackers and chips isle, your blood pressure will rise just staring at all the labels. One ounce of potato chips have 186 mg of sodium. And believe it or not, pretzels are even worse! Most pretzels pack a whopping 500 mg of sodium per ounce. Then there’s spaghetti sauces, cheeses, peanut butter (my personal favorite) and cottage cheese. Yep, even cottage cheese. It has 450 mg of sodium in every half cup serving. We have become so saturated with salt, “low-sodium” has become the latest buzz word. In fact, according to the NY Daily News, researchers from PepsiCo and Frito-Lay are working to reduce the amount of salt in potato chips by changing the shape of its crystals.
In our day and age, salt has become so prevalent, it can be hard to understand why Jesus talked so much about its importance, but in Bible times, salt played a crucial role. It added flavor, preserved food and was even used medicinally. Salt was so important, in fact, that it was often used as money. Our word “salary” arose from the phrase “salarium argentum” which means “salt money”. In ancient Rome, soldiers were given salt as part of their pay. So when Jesus talks about His followers being the salt of the earth, He is telling us to add flavor to our surroundings and preserve what is good in our culture. (IMHO)
With my bags of potato chips, pretzels and sodium-loaded sauces (salsa’s my favorite) I understand this analogy. I can actually visualize flavor-producing “salt” pouring from my Spirit-filled being, but what I couldn’t understand for the longest time was how to keep my salt from losing it’s saltiness. (Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”)
I know salt. I’ve been using salt, in one way or another, for–oh, do I really want to age myself? Let’s just say, for a long time. I’ve dissolved it, re-crystalized it, looked at it under a microscope, stuck my tongue on halite (rock salt–for a college Earth Science class) and I’ve got to tell you, the flavor doesn’t change.
I understood the concept. Flavorless salt would be bland, ineffective and basically worthless. The same is true of a flavorless Christian. And I certainly don’t want to be bland, but how in the world can I keep my witness spicy?
Last Sunday as I read a footnote in my new study Bible (It’s an archaeological study Bible and I love it!) I had an ah-ha moment. Most of the salt used in Israel came from the Dead Sea and was full of impurities. These impurities caused the salt to lose some of its flavor.
So now that I understand the historical context of this verse, it is easier to see how it might apply to my spiritual walk. Just as impurities weaken salt’s flavor, impurities in our lives, known as sin, weaken our witness for Christ. We talk about the love of God in one breath, and in the next, gossip about our neighbor. We share how great life is with Christ, and then complain about our jobs or doing the laundry or chasing after energetic two year olds. We say God is loving and in control, and then we fret endlessly about our finances. We talk about the power of the Holy Spirit and then allow our emotions to control us. And to the non-Christian world, this can be very confusing.
For me, my greatest impurity is selfishness. My selfishness weakens my witness, takes away my flavor and, and when left unchecked, reduces my words, no matter how heart-felt, to flavorless powder. It is my selfishness that hurries past an old lady working to get groceries in her car instead of stopping to help. It is my selfishness that dashes into line while a fellow shopper struggles with her shopping cart so that I can get to my car a whole five minutes faster. And it is time that I act on the conviction God sparked on Monday. (To find out more, read my Death by Wheat Squares post) And maybe now that I recognize this flavor-sapping impurity (one of many, I’m sure.) I’ll be more diligent in my flavor-preservation.
Today, as a first step effort, I’m going to focus on the needs of others by asking them for specific ways I can help or serve them. Waiting for them to come to me is too easy. Today I’m going to beat them to the punch. (Feel free to hold me accountable by checking back with me tomorrow. -grin-)
Wanna join me? What is your greatest “impurity” and what are some steps you can take to purge that sin from your salt?
PS, this post may seem to contradict my previous one on transparency, but understand, there is a difference between being real with one another and just plain griping.