Salt: An Analogy From Chemistry



Why did Jesus refer to Christians as the salt of the earth? (See Matthew 5:13.)

Put one grain of salt in the palm of your hand and scrutinize it. What do you see? You see a pure white crystal whose shape is cubic. This means which ever side of the cube you see, you are looking at a square. Now, put that one crystal on the tip of your tongue. What do you taste? You sense a salty taste. Amazing. Only one crystal of salt was placed on your tongue, but there was enough salt in it to be perceived.

We will examine four properties of salt. Then we will look at three functions of salt. Finally, we will answer the question: “is it possible for salt not to be salty?” by noting three ways that salt can lose its savor. We will note the properties (attributes) of a Christian, the functions of a Christian, and how a Christian can lose his/her savor (effectiveness) for Christ.

Properties of salt

1. Salt is sodium chloride-made up of sodium and chlorine. Both sodium and chlorine are lethal elements by themselves. Sodium is a soft metal which can ignite when exposed to air and even explode in water. Chlorine is a noxious, very poisonous gas. But when these two elements combine, they become electronically charged particles called ions. Not only are these ions stable, but they are also useful.

We come to Christ in our sinful nature, and there is no good thing in us. (See Romans 7:18.) Then we are transformed into Christ’s image. (See Romans 8:28-30.) Not only do we become Christians, but we are also useful to God and His kingdom.

2. Salt is pure white. When salt is mined, however, it is far from white. it comes as the mineral halite, or rock salt. This is grayish-brown and is a conglomeration of salt and other minerals, rocks, and dirt. it must be refined by being dissolved in water so the impurities can be washed away.

In much the same way, Christ accepts us as we are, and the Holy Spirit begins the work of refining, or purifying us. (See Titus 2:11-14.)

3. Salt is cubic-each crystal has six sides, all of which are squares. No side is longer than any other. This indicates consistency and balance.

When we come to Christ, we must grow in a balanced way, not elongating any one area at the expense of the others, just as Luke 2:52 says, “Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man,” so we too must keep our intellectual, physical, spiritual, and social growth balanced.


4. Salt possesses colligative properties-salt raises the boiling point and lowers the freezing point of water.

As Christians, we have God’s truth within us to thaw out people who are discouraged or depressed. (See Psalm 43.) We also have temperance and other fruit of the Spirit to defuse and subdue those whose actions and desires are volatile and explosive. (See Galatians 5:19-24.)


Functions of salt

1. Salt dissolves in water. When salt comes in contact with water, those ionic bonds are broken. Since God created the water molecule to also possess a partial electronic charge, the water molecules literally attack the salt ions, pulling them apart voraciously. The salt ions do not decide to passively dissolve; they have no choice.

So it is with our lives. The world desperately wants what we have. just as the multitudes clamored after Jesus to hear His teachings, so people today are clamoring for the truth, and we have it. We have no choice but to become proactive in satisfying the world’s need for Jesus.

2. Salt makes one thirsty. Because of their electronic charge, the sodium ions from dissolved salt attract water molecules in our cells. God created within us the sensation of needing to replenish the water that gets chemically used up. We know this as thirst. Therefore, the more salt we intake, the thirstier we become, and the more water we drink.

Because we are the salt of the earth, we have the ability to make the world thirsty for the living water. (See John 4:13,14.)

3. Salt is a preservative. Food spoils because various bacteria and molds multiply and cause chemical changes. This altered chemical makeup usually has a putrid odor and is quite often poisonous. When salt is added to food in large quantities, it decreases the rate of multiplication of these microorganisms, and the food stays healthy longer. This was a major method of preserving food in Bible times.

Christians need to be a preservative to combat moral decay in the form of broken relationships, dysfunctional families, and material philosophies so prevalent today. (See Matthew 5:16,44.)


How can a Christian lose his/her savor?

This question mystifies many Christians. Does it imply salt can become something other than salt? No. it simply means that salt must dissolve to be effective; therefore, any condition which keeps salt from dissolving will, by default, cause the salt to lose its savor. There are only three possible conditions:

1. If salt does not come in contact with anything (staying in the shaker);

2. If salt becomes surrounded and encrusted by dirt, rocks, and other debris so the water molecules cannot reach the salt ions to pull them apart; and

3. If salt is placed in a medium unlike water which will not attack the salt ions.

In each of these three ways, the salt is unable to dissolve, and it cannot perform its functions.

Now let’s compare the life of a Christian with each of these conditions. First, if a Christian insulates himself/herself from the world, he/she cannot make people thirsty for the Living Water. (See Matthew 5:14-16.)

Second, if a Christian becomes encrusted with worldly thoughts, desires, and actions, he/she will be unable to rightly mirror the love of Jesus to the world. (See Hebrews 12:1.)

Finally, if a Christian falls into sin or gets caught up in deceit, it will be impossible for him/her to lead others to Christ. (See 2 Timothy 3:1-5.)

Just as Jesus left heaven to come to earth, so we must leave the comfort and safety of our “salt shakers” and make the world thirsty for Jesus, the Living Water. just as salt loses its identity but not its potency when it dissolves, may the world not see us, but may it see Christ and His power living in and through us.


What you can do

To illustrate salt’s colligative properties, put two ice cubes side-by-side. on one, carefully place some salt. Notice which cube melts first. Why?

This is a picture of how we can bring a thawing into the lives of those who have been maligned by Satan’s devices.

To illustrate what happens when salt is placed in a medium which will not allow it to dissolve, shake a few salt crystals into a glass containing a small amount of isopropyl (rubbing) alcohol. The salt will not dissolve. Let this be a reminder that we can’t live in sin and deceit and still be effective for Christ.

Whenever you shake salt on food, rejoice. As the salt is to your food, so you are to the world.

Next month we will learn about a word used in thermodynamics-entropy. Look up the meanings of the words entropy and thermodynamics and see if you can find a connection between entropy and 2 Corinthians 4:16.

Roger Sorbo, Ph.D., is professor and chair of the Liberal Arts
Department at North Central Bible College in Minneapolis, Minnesota.