Why Christians Are Called Salt Of The Earth

By: Norman L. Shoaf

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus took his closest disciples to a secluded place on a mountainside. There he personally taught them the way of life that leads to true happiness.

In the course of his teaching, Jesus told the disciples (and us today): “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 under foot by men” (Matthew 5:13, New King James throughout).

What did Jesus mean, “You are the salt of the earth”? What can salt teach us about the qualities a Christian should have?

Used Sparingly

Salt occurs commonly in nature. Various industries put salt to about 14,000 different uses. But only 3 percent of the world’s salt production is used in the home. Think of the small amount of salt you use to season a meal. Just a dash – a few grains – makes a big difference.

In Jesus’ day salt was not as readily available as it is now. Salt was once so valuable that it was used to pay the wages of Roman soldiers. We get the English word salary from this ancient practice of paying with salt.

Salt was also used as payment in buying and selling Greek slaves; today, people sometimes ask whether a person is worth his salt. The disciples would have understood the value and rarity of salt. So what did Jesus
Christ mean when he called his disciples salt?

For one thing, committed Christians are rare. The people of God, in whom the Spirit of God resides (Romans 8:9), are sprinkled across the earth like you would sprinkle salt across food – sparingly. But what a difference they make!

Salt Is Pure

Salt, besides being used sparingly, is pure. Germs cannot live in it. The spiritual analogy should be clear: God’s people are to be pure.

According to Leviticus 2:13, salt was to be a part of all grain offerings. The salt, at least in part, was needed to symbolize that the sacrifice was pure.

Christians are to present themselves to God as living sacrifices (Romans 12:1). We, as the “salt of the earth,” are to be just as pure.

If we are pure, the work we do is right (Proverbs 21:8). Our hearts should be pure (I Timothy 1:5), as should our consciences (I Timothy 3:9), our thoughts (Philippians 4:8) and our religion (James 1:27).

To be spiritually pure means to be unadulterated with the wrong ways of this world, with false philosophies, dishonest ways of doing business, selfish desires.

As we continually repent and dedicate ourselves to live God’s way, we are washed from our impurities, our sins, by the blood of Christ (I John 1:7-9). We are to come out of this world (Revelation 18:4) and live our
lives in devotion to God.

Spices or Flavors

Probably the majority of us most commonly come in contact with salt as a condiment for our food. We know how salt, used properly, can add taste, and thereby pleasure, to a meal. The patriarch Job said: “Can flavorless food be eaten without salt? Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?” (Job 6:6).

Salt, then, is symbolic as a spice or flavoring. Christians should add flavor to other people’s lives.

Is your life as a Christian dull, tedious, a heavy burden, something bland and uneventful? If it is, it shouldn’t be.

Just as salt adds a wonderful dimension to the taste of food, the Christian life should be filled with interest, zip, hope and excitement. Joy is, after all, one of the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

If you are just enduring and not enjoying your life as a Christian, ask God for more of his joy to flow through you and out to others. Be as active as possible in service to everyone around you.

It should be a pleasure to be around God’s people. We, as the “salt of the earth,” should be positive, turned-on people. Just as salt gives a zest to food, we should help others find zest for life through the power of the
Holy Spirit.

Creates Thirst

As Christians, we are to set a good example for the world around us. Just as salt produces physical thirst, we should produce in those around us a spiritual thirst.

People are to “see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven,” as Christ said in Matthew 5:16. By our example and the message we preach, we create a positive impression of God’s way.

Is your personal example creating in people a thirst for more of God’s knowledge? Or do they look at you and say, “If that’s Christianity, I want no part of it!”?

Other Meanings

As an essential article of diet, salt historically symbolized hospitality. Christians should be the world’s most hospitable people.

The Old Testament uses the phrase “covenant of salt” (Numbers 18:19; II Chronicles 13:5). This phrase described an unbreakable alliance between friends.

We have the privilege of considering God our friend. Our covenant with God to commit our lives to him should be “of salt” – unbreakable.

Let us grow in the grace and in the knowledge of God’s word, and truly become the “salt of the earth.”


In the same sentence in which he instructed his disciples that they were to be the “salt of the earth,” Jesus warned that they should not lose their flavor. (Matthew 5:13).

Salt without any flavor is, indeed, good for little. But how does salt lose its flavor? And what does this warning mean to Christians?

Salt is an enduring mineral. It can last a long time and undergo a lot of pressure before its quality diminishes. The deposits in salt mines are thousands of years old. Yet the flavor or taste is still there.

Even refined salt can be stored for extended periods and retain its flavor. Though the salt may grow hard or lumpy, its salty quality remains. Salt cannot spoil.

Dissolved in water, salt disappears, but its quality remains. Taste the water and you’ll find that the salt is still there.

Salt can also be subjected to extreme temperature. Even at 801 degrees Celsius (1,474 degrees Fahrenheit), the temperature at which salt melts, it still retains its particular chemical composition.

So how can the flavor of salt be compromised or destroyed? Only if it reacts chemically with some other substance – if it is, so to speak, contaminated by some outside influence. Can you see the implication for

Jesus said that though we must be in the world, we are not to be of the world (John 17:15-16).

Choked by the “cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in,” Christians can become unfruitful, (Mark 4:19). As the “salt of the earth,” we can lose our unique flavor, and
are thereafter “neither fit for the land nor for the dunghill” (Luke 14:35).

On the other hand, faithful Christians do not allow themselves to be contaminated by this world. They are the “salt of the earth”- and they don’t lose their flavor.

(The above material appeared in the September 1992 issue of Plain Truth Magazine.)

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