Our Lord tells His disciples in Matthew 5:13:
You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
There are significant implications to Jesus identifying His people as the salt of the earth. Martyn Lloyd Jones is helpful here:
‘Ye are the salt of the earth.’ What does that imply? It clearly implies rottenness in the earth; it implies a tendency to pollution and to becoming sinful and bad. Its tendency is to evil and to wars. It is like meat which has a tendency to putrefy and to become polluted. It is like something which can only be kept wholesome by means of a preservative or antiseptic. As the result of sin and the fall, life in the world in general tends to get into a putrid state. That, according to the Bible, is the only sane and right view to take of humanity. Far from there being a tendency in life and the world to go upwards, it is the exact opposite. The world, left to itself, is something that tends to fester. There are these germs of evil, these microbes, these infective agents and organisms in the very body of humanity, and unless checked, they cause disease. This is something which is obviously primary and fundamental. Our outlook with regard to the future must be determined by it (1).
Just as salt primarily serves as a preservative agent working against meat putrefaction, Christians serve to preserve the world from rotting away. This implies the world will always be tending towards decay, as Christ has identified His people as salt. They remain salt, and the world will always need it. Only two-kingdom theology can account for this perpetual contrast.
The world decays where Christians are few or lack in their testimony. The condition of the American visible church is a case in point. The teaching of sound doctrine in America is rare; faithful preaching is rarer. The results are tickled, itching evangelical ears walking as enemies of the cross, “loving people to heaven” while they baptize their facebook profile pictures in Sodom’s rainbows. I don’t blame the invisible church in America for SCOTUS’ harlot decision (or, cough, premillennialism for that matter), but I do believe there being fewer Christians in America played a significant role. With less Christians in America, the nation festers in the polluting agents of sin. In His judgment against this bloodthirsty land, God is removing His hand of mercy and handing her over to her own destruction.
Yet even though America is quickly rotting at the core, the Christians that remain must still be who they are – salt. The Doctor is helpful here again:
We are to be unlike the world. There is no need to stress that, it is perfectly obvious. Salt is essentially different from the medium in which it is placed and in a sense it exercises all its qualities by being different. As our Lord puts it here – ‘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.’ The very characteristic of saltness proclaims a difference, for a small amount of salt in a large medium is at once apparent. Unless we are clear about this we have not even begun to think correctly about the Christian life. The Christian is a man who is essentially different from everybody else. He is as different as the salt is from the meat into which it is rubbed. He is as different as the salt is from the wound into which it is put. This external difference still needs to be emphasized and stressed (2).
It is significant that Jesus tells us we are the salt of the earth, only after He tells us we are poor in spirit, mournful, meek, hungry and thirsty for righteousness, merciful, pure in heart, peacemakers, and should rejoice in persecution – these are the things that identify us as separate from the world. We must be who we are in these identifiers if we are to be the salt of the earth.
Our being salty is a manifestation of Christian character. It is a manifestation of our Christian virtue, our walking in righteousness, our bearing the fruit of the Spirit, our abstaining from the things of this world, our showing mercy to those who need mercy, and our proclaiming God’s justice. Our holy speech and conduct (even toward lawless governments) should be an indication to nonbelievers in our spheres of influence that we are different. It should be such that nonbelievers may even behave differently around us because they know we are servants of the God they are rebelling against. We are agitators in that sense, in a good sense.
Believing that Christians are here to make the world a better place is really missing the mark on our being “the salt of the earth.” In the case of America, unless more sinners are converted to Christ and become salt, this nation will continue to putrefy until it literally rots away. While there is a place for seeking to influence legislation (seeking its peace and prosperity), moral laws in the land will not save the nation. I trust the Christians reading this article agree with that. Only the Gospel converts sinners, and only the Gospel’s triumph (under the providence of God) will change the direction of a wicked nation. Martin Lloyd Jones aptly said,
The world is bad, sinful and evil; and any optimism with regard to it is not only thoroughly unscriptural but has actually been falsified by history itself (3).
So, Christian, be less concerned about the political and cultural quagmire America is in, and be more concerned with watching your life and doctrine closely. Be more concerned with how you are walking worthy of the Gospel, pursuing holiness, and speaking truth in your circle of influence. You may very well be the preservative agent keeping those around you from permanent destruction, and the Lord just might use you to win their souls to Christ.
Next time, we’ll continue in Matthew 5 to examine what Christ meant when identifying His people as the “light of the world.”
(1) Jones, David Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959. 131. Print.
(2) Jones, David Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959. 132. Print.
(3) Jones, David Martyn. Studies in the Sermon on the Mount. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1959. 132. Print.