Matthew 5:13 "Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
How many times have I heard this saying and never really thought anything more than "wow- unsalty salt would be pretty useless!" I got that it was not really about salt, and that it was about our need to be a positive addition to the world, but I didn't think much past that. That is, until I was studying my husband's sunday school lesson with him. One of the quotes really caught my attention and made me think about what the Savior was really saying. So here's what I've come up with:
Salt is an abundant mineral used for seasoning, food preservation, and even as an antiseptic. Among ancient Hebrews salt was used for these purposes but also in their religious sacrifices. Salt is essential for animal life in small quantities. A little salt can enhance a food's flavor and make it much more enjoyable to eat. Salt can also be used on food to make it last longer, or to store it for future use. Salt that is clean, pure, and uncontaminated will perform all of these useful functions.
That's good stuff to know about salt. Now how does it relate to us?
"When the Lord used the expression 'savor of men,' he was speaking of those who represent him. He was referring to those who have repented, who have been washed clean in the waters of baptism, and who have covenanted to take upon them his name and his cause." (Elder Carlos E. Asay; May 1980 Ensign )
Because we have joined ourselves to Christ through baptism we are the ones he is referring to as "the salt of the earth." We are meant to be the seasoning, the savor, and the preserving influence in the world. When we follow the Savior we enhance lives around us. We add good to the world and even help to preserve the teachings and testimony of Christ.
But what happens when salt loses its savor? And how does that even happen? I've never had salt "go bad." I had thought it was just an example, one that everyone would relate to because everyone knows what "salty" is, and to have salt not be "salty" would obviously make it useless. It's not something that we hear of happening often, but it is possible.
Elder Carlos E. Asay said, "A world-renowned chemist told me that salt will not lose its savor with age. Savor is lost through mixture and contamination."
Think about that. Salt doesn't lose it's savor because it's gotten old. It doesn't lose anything from being used. The only things that can cause salt to lose its savor are being mixed with things that have a bad taste or by being contaminated by impurities. Salt will actually take on some of the color and appearance of those substances. I don't know about you, but I don't want to experience unsavory salt. What a disappointment that would be!
Likewise, as the "salt of the earth" we won't lose our savor through aging or constant service. The only way we will lose our savor is if we let ourselves become contaminated or mixed with unclean or unholy things. When that happens, our usefulness has stopped, we are no longer enhancing or positively contributing to the gospel cause, and we may even end up spreading the contamination or cause others to lose their savor. Rather than being a valuable commodity, we become good for nothing and are cast out, to be walked on where we are indistinguishable from the dirt under someone's feet.
In this one short saying, Jesus gave us a vital lesson on the importance of staying clean and pure, and of being a useful and enhancing force in this world. We can make the world a better and more enjoyable place. It doesn't matter where we reside, if we're young or old, whether we have many talents or few, as long as we are following the Savior's example we are the salt of the earth.
Go here to read more about the history of and facts about salt.