“He’s a real salt of the earth kind of guy”
This is one of those phrases that gets throne around as if everyone knows what it means, probably most among the Baby Boomer generation. Generally the speaker means that someone is a good person, maybe even humble, to be more specific, and if we’re familiar with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, a lot more imagery and meaning will come to mind when we hear “salt of the earth.”
This is part of a series! See series intro & related sermons.
How to be salt:
Salt scatters. When I sprinkle salt over my dinner, the little grains move from their container, where they were all cozy with each other, onto my food, where they scatter. The grains are no longer touching each other. They’re in new, unfamiliar territory, where they have to get to know the meat loaf and the potatoes and the green beans (or other favorite foods!)
When we gather as the church, we are in our salt-shaker. We’re cozy with other people who are Christians. We’re in the place where we learn how to be the salt: We practice closeness to Jesus through prayer, singing, hearing the scriptures, communion, baptism. We’re comfortable in here.
Getting scattered from the sanctuary to season the world is also essential to our identity as the salt. If the salt stays in the shaker, it serves no purpose. It has lost its saltiness.
Salt is a flavor enhancer. You never eat it by itself, gross! And when it seasons food, it brings out the best in each item – Meat loaf tastes MORE meaty, potatoes taste MORE potatoey, green beans taste MORE green.
When we embrace our calling to evangelism as being a flavor enhancer, we face less fear and pressure (What if I don’t know the whole Bible? What if someone has a question I can’t answer? What if they reject me and the message of Jesus? etc…) We don’t need to approach people with all the answers. Instead, let’s meet people with questions. We need to learn their flavor – what makes them tick – and then we will see how God’s flavor is already part of their life. We can walk alongside friends to notice God’s flavor, point out God’s flavor, and enhance God’s flavor in their lives.
Some questions we might ask as we meet new people or bring up faith conversations with old friends are:
What brings you joy?
When you’re in trouble, what gives you strength?
What do you have that you love to share with others?
When we seek answers instead of bringing answers, we’ll learn new things about God’s flavor. As we build relationships, these questions can turn into avenues of the good news of the grace of Jesus Christ.
Salting is a process. Salt does its work best when it’s used DURING the cooking process, rather than at the end, when the food’s already plated. Being the salt of the earth takes time, and we may not see the “results” of our work. Approaching evangelism as a question and a relationship, rather than an answer, takes time.
We can be patient because we know the results of our salting are not for us, but for our God. Salt-of-the-earth people serve so that God’s love will be sprinkled out, and more people will know and respond to God’s love.
That’s why we pray, “hallowed be YOUR name.” Through our lives as the salt, may others know and respond to God’s love. Hallowed be your name!
Image credit: Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia