We had returned to Jaffna after having lived in the UK for many years. I was a teenager then. Amidst friends, we had designated different items to be brought to school – chilli powder, salt, blades (as knives wouldn’t be allowed) and unripe mangoes. The last item usually was my responsibility since our garden had a type of mango (pachchai thinni for those who know Tamil) that is simply delicious to be eaten raw. This was to snack on during class – oops I meant breaks! It’s amazing how salt brings out the flavour of any fruit or even juice to the point of breaking rules… No no, no! We were obedient kids adhering to every school rule – trust me we had volumes of them! (This is written with an absolutely innocent angelic face).
If salt is insufficient, the flavour of the dish is suppressed. What seems tasteless can be revived instantly with the right amount of salt. It takes salt to bring out the best of the rest! Just the right amount does wonders. However too much of it is unbearable while overpowering the taste of the other ingredients. Likewise both too much or lack of salt in one’s diet affects the health – for example, muscle cramps and dizziness. A balance is required for the healthy functioning of the body.
For thousands of years, salt has been used as a food preservative. It is also a healing agent. Abrasives or open wounds are said to heal faster in sea water. Soaking in salt springs has always been considered therapeutic. In fact, rock salt is often used in beauty treatments – for example, as an ingredient in some facial scrubs. “Today’s more luxurious spas offer salt baths, glows, rubs and polishes to exfoliate dead skin, stimulate circulation and relieve stress” (http://blog.realsalt.com/2010/08/a-brief-history-of-salt/).
Jesus addresses His disciples (which applies to us believers today too), “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Reflecting on the properties / benefits of salt would help us understand the analogy. We are vessels of His love bringing meaning to life on earth. Lives are thus preserved – through accepting Jesus as their Saviour, believers gain life forever. It preserves those we interact with.
Paul writes, “Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer anyone” (Colossians 4:6). Our conversation being seasoned with salt brings out the best in the rest; it builds up and does not tear down. When salt water touches an open wound, it stings. Yes, “pouring salt into an open wound” indeed. However it facilitates healing. More often than not, a truthful word (which needs to always be spoken with love) stings yet it sets on the path to healing. As God’s vessels, His healing touches people through us. A word of encouragement and a kiss of charity go a long way. Last but not least, like salt is used to exfoliate dead skin and bring a glow to the face, our faces are radiant as we look to God (Psalm 34:5).
Having said all that, a salt shaker on the dining table or a salt container in the kitchen or salt springs in the vicinity will be of no use at all if we were to just let it be. Being the salt on the earth requires us to go forth and mix with people, so that God can use us as His agents for healing, for preserving, for flavouring and for beautifying!
After having stated that believers are the salt of the earth Jesus cautions us, “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” (Matthew 5:13). Luke 14:34 records another analogy. If salt loses its flavour, it is good for nothing! The value is lost. If we backslide and turn away from God, we are lost and thrown away because of our own wrong choices. Jesus also said, “Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with each other” (Mark 9:50).
- What does this verse mean to you? What does it mean to have salt in yourselves? How does that tie in with being at peace with each other?
If we are not making a U-turn in life, and thus not increasingly (slowly but surely) being restored to the image of Christ, we don’t have salt in ourselves. We won’t be the vessels that God can use to purify, preserve and heal others.
What is the story that your life tells today?