Over Christmas I cooked a few gammon joints, and also enjoyed eating them, as I am sure many others of you have. To cook and eat a ham or gammon joint is a little ritual many do over Christmastime that they may not do any other time of year. If you are like me then you will always soak your gammon or ham before you cook it. I do this as I do not like things too salty, so by soaking it before I cook it I can get rid of excess salt and I personally think they taste far better as well as being far healthier as soaking greatly reduces the salt content and as we know too much salt is not good for your blood pressure among other things.
It got me thinking today about salt and water in the Bible. I shall look at salt in this post and water in the next post, as it is too long for just one post.
‘You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled underfoot.’ (Matthew 5:13 NRSV)
In Biblical times salt was precious, it was costly. Salt has always had two primary culinary uses, both in antiquity and in the present day.
- The first as a condiment, to improve the flavour of your food during cooking and on your plate when you are eating it, used in this way you use relatively small amounts. Salt used as a flavouring does not alter the nature of what it is adding flavour to, its nature remains the same. It may taste better but will still go bad if you don’t eat it within a short space of time.
- The second is as a preservative of fish and meat, this takes much larger quantities to have the desired effect. Salting meat or fish changes the very nature and permanently changes the flavour of that meat or fish, it means that it can be kept for a long period of time and will no longer bad if you don’t eat it within a short space of time.
Now here’s a question for you. Do you want to just add a little flavour to the society, or do you want to change its very nature?
Jesus wants us to change our society. If we look at how he and his disciples modelled ministry, they spoke with spiritual authority and moved in the power of the Holy Spirit, this had a radical effect on the society they lived in.
If all we settle for is just to flavour society, then we are selling ourselves short and missing the point. We may make society seem a bit ‘nicer’, but we will not change it. This is why prohibition failed in America and it strengthened criminals and corruption, it did not deal with the root causes it just tried to deal with symptoms.
But what if we are to be a preservative in the society we live in, what does it really mean? What does a preservative do? Here are a few things:
- It changes the nature of the thing being preserved so it will last for longer so that it will not start decaying. This is what the gospel does to our lives, like the meat or fish to be preserved we are already dead, but we will just decay even further if our nature is not changed. The gospel doesn’t just flavour our lives, it radically changes them. We go from being dead to being alive when we accept the gospel and make Jesus our Lord and Saviour, we are born again to the abundant life God has for us. Can people see that life in us? Or are we just like them so that we blend in.
- It ‘stops the rot’! It is best to start preserving something before it starts rotting, but if you left it a bit late and things were already starting to rot you don’t need to worry, just cut out the worst bits and preserve it anyway, it will stop rotting, and you will even be able to eat bits that had just started rotting as they are altered by the preserving nature of the salt or salts used. (This is not recommended these days, but in the past people were used to more bugs in their food than we are these days!) We live a very perverted society these days, where sex sells anything and everything, alcoholism is on the ascendency once again in this country and drug use is considered acceptable, I never smelled cannabis until I was at university, but these days I smell it in the street at least once a week, generally more. We have to stop the rot and restore things to how they should be, this will only work if we are a preservative!
So we are to be salt as a preservative, people changed by Jesus who stop the rot in society.
We are also to be salt as a seasoning, but must never let our being salt just be reduced to this. Paul said ‘Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.’ Colossians 4:6 NRSV. From this we can understand what the salt is, it is truth, God’s truth. It is his truth and the out-working of it in our lives that enables us to see changed lives in others as our lives themselves have been changed and to bring radical change to the society in which we live, and to touch the lives of others through our conversation.
The salt Jesus refers to is truth, and this is how we lose our saltiness, by reducing God’s truth so it fit in with truth as defined by the society in which we live. If we either actively rebel against God’s truth, or just try to blend in then we will not see lives changed or stop the cycle of decline in society. What then? Well all we will be useful for is to be thrown on the ground to clear the snow, for people to walk on! If we lack God’s truth in our lives then we will be mocked by men, I would rather be mocked for standing boldly for Jesus, and walking lovingly in Spirit and in truth than be mocked for standing for a powerless Christianity that stands for nothing at all!
Heavenly Father, help us to be salt as you have called us to be, people who’s lives have been so changed by Jesus that we speak the truth by our actions as well as our words and lead others to Jesus to change their lives too. Help us not to be so bothered about fitting in society that we lose our saltiness so we are worth nothing but being thrown out and walked on, then we will see lives changed, society changed and you glorified. In Jesus’ name, Amen.