Salty is as Salty Does

September 30, 2013 admin

“Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” Luke 14:34

The three evangelists—gospel writers—Matthew, Mark and Luke all quote these words of Jesus, but not all in the same context. Matthew includes them just after the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5. Mark inserts them after Jesus’ warning about causing little ones to stumble and before His discussion of marriage and divorce in chapter 10. Luke tacks them onto Christ’s teaching on discipleship. This does not mean one of them had it right and the others got it wrong. Presumably, as an itinerate preacher/teacher, Jesus repeated His stories and illustrations a number of times in various places during His three years of ministry. As the collected sayings of Jesus were written down for us to read, the Holy Spirit directed the human authors where they were to place them in their narratives.

While the Scriptures themselves were inspired by the Holy Spirit, we can’t say the same for the topical headings and paragraph markings in the various editions of the Bible that we use today. But in all three instances where these words of Jesus are quoted, the editors of my English Bible—in this case the NKJV—chose to separate them from what He said before by starting a new paragraph. This seems to further emphasize a seeming disjuncture of ideas. Hold that thought for a minute while we look at Luke 14:34.

The question Jesus raised was, “If the salt has lost its flavor, how shall it be seasoned?” Silly question, we might be tempted to think. Salt is salt. You shake some on your fries and the fries taste salty. You can dissolve salt in a glass of water and let it stand. When the water has evaporated away, you are left with salt again. One commentator, however, suggested that the inferior salt of Palestine could become insipid. Hence, the question. But whether hypothetical or not, flavourless salt is useless. If it can’t regain its saltiness, then, as Jesus said, “It is neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill, but men throw it out.” It is no good as a seasoning; it is no good as a preservative. Just throw it out!

Okay, okay! What does all this discussion about the properties of salt have to do with me? Well, Jesus told His disciples—and by extension told us—that we are the “salt of the earth.” We are the seasoning in a “same-old, same-old society.” We are the preservative of moral values in a decadent and decaying culture. But if we lose our saltiness, we are worthless. The world will discard us and our message. The gospel will simply be “trampled underfoot by men.” (See Matthew 5:13)

Are you still holding that thought from the end of paragraph two above? Perhaps verses 34-35 (of Luke 14) should not be separated from verse 33, as if it were a separate thought. Quoting Jesus, verse 33 says, “So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” How can we who are supposed to be “the salt of the earth” stay salty? I think Luke is suggesting that it is by forsaking all and following Jesus. What do you think?