In nearly every cook’s pantry there can be found that familiar blue cardboard cylinder with the little girl and her umbrella pictured on the side – NaCl. But unlike modern sodium chloride, which will keep indefinitely, salt prepared in other more traditional ways will eventually lose its flavor. No doubt this is one reason why Jesus chose it as a metaphor for discipleship. (Interestingly, both salt and salvation are related etymologically, but not in the language that Jesus spoke. In Hebrew, salvation is translated as Yeshua.)
But salt, even that which is fresh and sharp, is useless if it never leaves the box. Speaking from a culinary perspective, unless salt is used to season or preserve foods it has no purpose. (At the time of Christ no one had ever thought of using salt to melt icy sidewalks, or thought of sidewalks at all, for that matter. It was used in other less obvious ways, such as in leather curing and in dye making. It also had some purifying properties but if that was Jesus’ thrust then flavor would not have entered the discussion.) There is no benefit to collecting salt for it’s own sake. Salt when combined with nothing other than more salt accomplishes nothing.
As followers of Jesus, we only fulfill our purpose when we spill out of our box, the organized and religious church, and mix with other people, especially those we may consider ‘unsavory’. And like salt, it sometimes is best to share the Word of God in small doses, one pinch at a time, lest we overwhelm the palate. Pouring it on heavily, without taking into consideration the other ingredients that have gone into making up a person, can have quite distasteful results. Too much salt will kill.
Unlike other seasonings, salt is not used to radically change a dish’s flavor, but to enhance it. Encounters with Christians should bring out the best in people, accentuating those qualities that are in common with Christ while gently encouraging people to taste the Living Water. In doing so we experience the blessing that comes from exposure to other human ‘spices’, some quite exotic, that God has seasoned the world with. In creative cooking salt is rarely used alone but is typically combined with other spices. Seasoning only with salt soon becomes tiresome, bitter and unhealthy.
Maybe we missed the boat when we forgot this aspect of our spiritual lives. That like Jesus, we need to be working, eating and playing with ‘different’ people, enjoying them and loving them for who they are, not seeing them as another project for salvation. Perhaps if we had the trust to leave our little boxes, allowing God to pour us out among the rest of the world, then the church honestly could be spelled with that big C.
Why would God want a pantry filled with nothing but…salt?
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. Colossians 4: 5-6