You are the Salt of the Earth (Matthew 5:13)

Translation & Sermon by Nate Wilson for Christ the Redeemer Church, Manhattan, KS, 10 Apr. 2011

Intro: Salt

Salt is an essential part of our diet. According to the following unverified sources, our bodies use salt to:

·         “regulate fluid intake [which] directly affects the PH of your body,”

·         “regulate blood volume,” -

·         “balance blood sugar levels by clearing mucus and phlegm from the lungs,” › BodybuildingBodybuilding Diet

·         “make calcium and potassium,”

·         “make the enzymes that digest food,”

·         “make the enzymes that digest invading microbes and parasites,” and -

·         “hold on to water when it is not getting enough.”

·        In other words, “Without salt, we die.” -


What about Ice cream salt? Mom says, “don’t eat it.” Why? It isn’t pure salt. It has impurities that weren’t designed for human consumption. It is low-quality salt only intended for lowering the freezing temperature of water so you can get the water in your ice cream bucket colder and freeze your ice cream faster.

Jesus said (Translation)

13. It is y’all who are the salt of the earth.

            Now, if the salt should happen to be made sub-standard

                        in what way could it be made into salt?

                        It is good for nothing anymore

                                    except to be thrown outside to be stepped on by people.

“Y’all are the salt of the earth” (5:13a) Υμεῖς ἐστε τὸ λας τῆς γῆς

Salt in scripture

Jesus talked about salt on multiple occasions throughout His ministry:


References to the Dead Sea and environs – termed in Hebrew “The Salt Sea” and the “Valley of Salt” where some of the salt used by Israelites was mined or evaporated: Gen 14:3, Numbers 34:3 & 12, Deut. 3:17, Joshua 3:16, 12:3, 15:2-5, 15:62, 18:19, 2 Sam. 8:13, 2 Kings 14:7, 1 Chron. 18:12, 2 Chron. 25:11, Psalm 60 epigraph.
(There are also contrasts between salt and fresh water in James 3:12 and Ezekiel 47:11)


A) Used for flavor enhancing:

This was figuratively applied to pleasant speech in the New Testament:


B) Used for sterilizing


C) Used on every sacrifice


Now let’s go back over these three uses of salt in the Bible:

a) Salt brings good flavor to food

Job 6:6  "Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, Or is there any taste in the white of an egg?


“Salt… sharpens and defines the inherent flavours of foods and magnifies their natural aromas. Salt unites the diverse tastes in a dish, marries the sauce with the meat, and turns the pallid sweetness of vegetables into something complex and savory. Salt also deepens the color of most fruits and vegetables and keeps cauliflower white. Salt controls the ripening of cheese and improves its texture, strengthens the gluten in bread, and can preserve meat and fish, while transforming its texture. Cooked without salt, most dishes taste dull, lifeless, and lacking in complexity.” ~ Jeffrey Steingarten, food critic for Vogue magazine, from his book, The Man Who Ate Everything


In 1999, Karen McMahon, a Faculty of Biological Science at the University of Tulsa did an experiment to see why salt makes food taste better. She had a set of volunteers taste a set of solutions, some made bitter with urea and some made sweet with sucrose, then added salt to each solution and had volunteers explain the change in taste. She found that the “bitterness is no longer detected when the salt is combined with urea” and concluded that “Salt is shown to make food taste more palatable by suppressing unpleasant flavors.”


We like the taste of salt because God created us with a set of taste buds on our tongue which detect for saltiness, and when we eat salt in moderation, those taste buds are positively stimulated. Our bodies were made to like the taste of salt because our bodies need salt to live. Likewise, the world needs Christians spiritually because God has entrusted us with carrying the good news of eternal life, and those whom God has decided to save will experience us being the salt of the earth like salt-sensing taste buds are excited at the taste of salt. 2 Corinthians 2:15-16  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life…


Not only is salt necessary for life and make food taste better by suppressing unpleasant flavors:

b) Salt keeps bad germs out

“In Scripture, mankind, under the unrestrained workings of their own evil nature, are represented as entirely corrupt.

The remedy for this, says our Lord here, is the active presence of His disciples among their fellows. The character and principles of Christians, brought into close contact with it, are designed to arrest the festering corruption of humanity and season its insipidity.” ~ Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown

c) Salt is a symbol of a covenant with God without which there is no saving relationship (v.13b) ἐὰν δὲ τὸ λας μωρανθῇ, ἐν τίνι ἁλισθήσεται;

o       Deuteronomy 32:5-6 They have corrupted themselves, their spot is not the spot of his children: they are a perverse and crooked generation. Do ye thus requite the LORD, O foolish* people and unwise?..

o       2 Sam. 24:10  And David's heart smote him after that he had numbered the people. And David said unto the LORD, I have sinned greatly in that I have done: and now, I beseech thee, O LORD, take away the iniquity of thy servant; for I have done very foolishly*.

o       Psalm 94:6-8 They slay the widow and the stranger, and murder the fatherless. Yet they say, The LORD shall not see, neither shall the God of Jacob regard it. Understand, ye brutish among the people: and ye fools*, when will ye be wise?

o       Isaiah 19:11  Surely the princes of Zoan are fools*, the counsel of the wise counsellors of Pharaoh is become brutish*: how say ye unto Pharaoh, I am the son of the wise, the son of ancient kings?

o       Isaiah 32:5-6 The vile person* shall be no more called liberal, nor the churl said to be bountiful. For the vile person* [fool] will speak villany*, and his heart will work iniquity, to practise hypocrisy, and to utter error against the LORD, to make empty the soul of the hungry, and he will cause the drink of the thirsty to fail. 

o       Jeremiah 5:21 Hear now this, O foolish* people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:

o       Jeremiah 10:14  Every man is brutish* [stupid] in his knowledge: every founder is confounded by the graven image: for his molten image is falsehood, and there is no breath in them. (|| 51:17)

o       Matthew 5:22 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool*, shall be in danger of hell fire.

o       Matthew 7:26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish* man, which built his house upon the sand:

o       Matt. 23:17 Ye fools* and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?

o       Matthew 25:2-8 And five of them were wise, and five were foolish*. They that were foolish* took their lamps, and took no oil with them… And the foolish* said unto the wise, Give us of your oil; for our lamps are gone out.

o       1 Corinthians 1:25-27 Because the foolishness* of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men… But God hath chosen the foolish things* of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty… 3:18  Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool*, that he may be wise… 4:10 We are fools* for Christ's sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.

o       2 Timothy 2:23 But foolish* and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes.

o       Titus 3:9 But avoid foolish* questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain.

o       If we become substandard in setting the stage for God’s goodness and fighting evil, because we tolerate a whole bunch of sinful habits and impurities in our lives, then God does not find us as useful in accomplishing His purpose of advancing His kingdom.

o       Secondarily, if we become substandard in distributing ourselves throughout the entire world – if we clump up because we are all wet and don’t want to go out through the holes in the saltshaker, then, it doesn’t matter how pure we are, God does not find us as useful in accomplishing His purposes. He wanted us to “go into all the world” and be a “witness to all peoples.”

Trampled under people's feet  τι εἰ μὴ βληθῆναι ξω καὶ καταπατεῖσθαι ὑπὸ τῶν ἀνθρώπων.

·         To be cast out and used for pavement is not a positive thing. The word for “trampled/trodden underfoot” is a concept from the O.T. where the word is used about 30 times to indicate being conquered, being humiliated, being robbed and pillaged and crushed, and dying an ignoble death. Here are few examples:

1.      Judges 20:43 Thus they inclosed the Benjamites round about, and chased them, and trode* them down with ease over against Gibeah toward the sunrising.

2.      1 Samuel 23:1 Then they told David, saying, Behold, the Philistines fight against Keilah, and they rob* the threshingfloors.

3.      Psalm 7:5   Let the enemy persecute my soul, and take it; yea, let him tread down* [trample] my life upon the earth, and lay mine honour in the dust.

4.      Isaiah 10:6 Woe to Assyria… I will send him against an hypocritical nation, and against the people of my wrath will I give him a charge, to take the spoil, and to take the prey, and to tread them down* like the mire of the streets.

5.      Isaiah 28:3  The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden* under feet:

6.      Isaiah 63:3   I have trodden* the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me: for I will tread* them in mine anger, and trample them in my fury; and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment.

7.      Isaiah 63:18  The people of thy holiness have possessed it but a little while: our adversaries have trodden down* thy sanctuary. 

8.      Amos 4:1  Hear this word, ye kine of Bashan, that are in the mountain of Samaria, which oppress the poor, which crush* the needy, which say to their masters, Bring, and let us drink… 5:12  For I know your manifold transgressions and your mighty sins: they afflict* the just, they take a bribe, and they turn aside the poor in the gate from their right.

9.      Malachi 4:3  And ye shall tread down* the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, saith the LORD of hosts.

~ Schoettgenius, Horae Hebraicae


Jesus is not commenting here on whether we can lose our salvation when He speaks of salt degrading. “The question is not: Can, or do, the saints ever totally lose that grace which makes them a blessing to their fellow men? But, What is to be the issue of that Christianity which is found wanting in those elements which can alone stay the corruption and season the tastelessness of an all-pervading carnality? … Since living Christianity is the only “salt of the earth,” if men lose that, what else can supply its place? … It is not the mere want of a certain character, but the want of it in those whose profession and appearance were fitted to beget expectation of finding it.”

~ Commentary on the Old and New Testaments by Jamieson, Fausset and Brown


“The apostles were the salt of the whole earth, for they must go into all the world to preach the gospel. It was a discouragement to them that they were so few and so weak. What could they do in so large a province as the whole earth? Nothing, if they were to work by force of arms and dint of sword; but, being to work silent as salt, one handful of that salt would diffuse its savour far and wide; would go a great way, and work insensibly and irresistibly as leaven, Matt. 13:33. The doctrine of the gospel is as salt; it is penetrating, quick, and powerful (Heb. 4:12); it reaches the heart Acts 2:37. It is cleansing, it is relishing, and preserves from putrefaction. We read of the savour of the knowledge of Christ (2Cor. 2:14); for all other learning is insipid without that.”

~Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible


You are a sweetening and preserving influence on the world, even though the world, as we saw in the last beatitude, hates and persecutes you for it. Sometimes you don’t even have to say a word:


1. Don’t let your salt become substandard by getting filled with impurities!

·         Like ice cream salt or road salt!

·         ILLUSTRATION: Compromise asked of Allied soldiers in the movie, “The Great Escape” – The German Luftwaffe Colonial told the British RAF group leader to discourage his men from trying to escape from the prison camp. In return, the Allied soldiers would not be treated harshly or be killed. The British leader’s response was challenging: “Sir, do you not know that it is the sworn duty of our Allied officers to try to escape and to cause as much trouble as possible to the Nazi officers?” Compromise and complacency was not an option for the imprisoned Allied officers; to be an Allied officer necessarily meant that they had to try to escape and cause trouble for the Nazis. Likewise, religious compromise and preoccupation with our own pleasures is not an option for the Christian. To be a Christian is to be the salt of the earth.

·         Let us seek God with a pure heart, unadulterated by reliance upon ourselves, and untainted by indulgence in sinful rebellion against God.

o       1 Timothy 1:5  But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

o       2 Timothy 2:22  Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.


2. Let us bring out the goodness of God through being salty


3. Don’t allow your salt to get all wet and clumpy so that it cannot cover the earth


[1] according to the reckoning of A.T. Robertson, in his Harmony of the Gospels