Why Did Jesus Tell Us to Be the Salt of the Earth? - The Sermon on the Mount Series, Part 11

Jesus immediately followed the Beatitudes, His explanation of Christ-like character, with four profound metaphors that show us how to live out that character in the world. He taught: “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt loses its flavor, how shall it be seasoned? It is then good for nothing but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16


Let’s start with the first, which in the original language is literally, “You and you alone are the salt of the earth.”  

In Jesus’ day there was no refrigeration. The only way people could preserve fish or other meat was to rub salt into it. Jesus is declaring that His disciples are the salt world needs to be saved from rotting away. The “salt” influence of Christian character that God has allowed to be rubbed into society is really a gift of His grace, preserving this world for a season.

Because it was so necessary, salt was extremely valuable in the days of the Roman Empire. The Romans restricted salt production, controlling their subjects by controlling access. By calling His disciples the “salt of the earth,” Jesus was telling them that they were valuable, encouraging them to give away the rich spiritual life they had been entrusted with to the masses at the bottom of the mountain who ached for a whole and free life.

Reflect and meditate on the depths you can find in this rich metaphor. Salt makes people thirsty and as we show the beauty of Jesus, people become thirsty for Him. Salt stings the wounds and cuts people may not even know they have. Just observing a life of faith can irritate someone who wants to continue to sin. Salt is cleansing and healing, and living out the beatitudes can bring healing to our world.

Jesus came into the world to change culture - to revolutionize culture. His strategy, then and now, is to change hearts and send those people out to change others. Sometimes believers think to follow Jesus they need to hide away and have no relationships with unbelievers. Salt does no good when it is locked away. We can only live out the Beatitudes when interact with and love people in the world.

When Jesus prayed for His apostles, He asked the Father not to take them out of this world (John 17:15). At least one way our Lord spreads the salt around is through the work we do to support our families. That gives us relationships with the lost people we are to impact with our Christ-like attitudes. Persecution is another way the church gets shaken out like salt.

By the grace of God are you the salt of the earth? If you say you follow Jesus but the world doesn’t notice your saltiness, according to Jesus, you are good for nothing! You are to be thrown out and stepped on. This is serious warning we can’t ignore.


What specific steps can you take to be more effective “salt” in your community?

Take a moment to pray, thanking God for His ability to change your heart. Ask Him for courage as He sends you into the world as His ambassador. Let Him how you how to impact your culture and the people around you.


This post is adapted from a lesson of the Mini Bible College, an online study of the whole Bible. We highly recommend their audio resources and written materials, available in many languages, to anyone who wants a stronger understanding of the Bible.