When I was growing up on a farm in Ohio, I only knew about three kinds of salt: table salt, pickling salt, and road salt. Table salt was and is the most common type of salt that comes from salt deposits underground. Once mined it is highly refined and ground with all the impurities and trace minerals removed in the process. Then it gets treated with an anti-caking agent to keep it from clumping and many times iodine is added to the salt to prevent iodine deficiency.
Late summer when the pickles had been picked, my mother would go through the process of brining the pickles in large crocks that sat in our basement. Pickling salt doesn’t contain any added anti-caking agents, nor many trace minerals.
During the snowy winters common for us, large “salt trucks” would add road salt to the roadways to help the snow melt. This salt reduced the slippery conditions so the cars could travel more easily. This type of salt is often called “rock salt” because its grains are much coarser than table salt. (We had a salt mine not many miles from where I grew up. You know its name: Morton.)
Beyond these three types of salt there is Kosher salt, sea salt, Himalayan pink salt, Celtic Sea salt, Fleur De Sel (“flower of salt”), Kala Namak (“black salt”), flake salt, black Hawaiian salt, red Hawaiian salt, and smoked salt. Each type of salt has properties that attract various uses in different regions of the world.
In recent years the Himalayan pink salt has grown in popularity. (I use this often now.) Its appeal stems from being the purest form of salt in the world. It’s harvested by hand from the Khewra Salt Mine in the Himalayan Mountains of Pakistan. This salt is rich in minerals and contains 84 natural minerals and elements found in the human body. Due to its mineral content, it can have a bolder flavor than many other salts.
Beyond all that salt is spoken of often through the Old and New Testament of the Bible. It had multiple uses. It was used to season food, mixed with the fodder for cattle, used to season offerings offered to the Lord, and newborn children were rubbed with salt as a disinfectant in Ezekiel 16:4. In Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5 the Bible speaks of a “covenant of salt” and signified a covenant of perpetual obligation.
In Matthew 5 in the message known as the “Sermon on the Mount” in verse 13 Jesus uses the word salt in a powerful metaphor as He speaks to His disciples and followers:
“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.”Matthew 5:13 (ESV)
In the tangible world, sodium chloride (salt) is very stable, but it is readily water-soluble. If it is exposed to condensation or rainwater the sodium chloride could be dissolved and removed and the salt could lose its saltiness.
But I don’t think this is what Jesus is referring to. Salt is not only a seasoning that enhances flavors. As a seasoning it balances sweetness and can help suppress other flavors such as bitterness. Salt also is used as a preservative to prevent spoilage.
As believers to be called “salt” speaks to one of our responsibilities and calling. We are to represent Him and be a seasoning in the place He has called us to be. In other words, we are to bring something to the environment…the flavor of Christ. We also represent Him and preserve His Word and move on His commission to us as his modern-day disciples even now.
His words in Matthew 5:13 make clear we could lose our savor or saltiness. When He describes what happens if we lose it, it is not a pretty or positive picture.
What might cause us to lose our savor or saltiness?
That can be a question to ponder.
I think we can lose it when our life in Him is not spiritually renewed and continually refreshed. It can also happen when we drift away from remembering that we are His representatives wherever we go, whatever we do. We should look like Him, sound like Him. Our attitudes and character should be like His.
I wonder if we also lose our savor when we look more like the world around us, when we are no longer a seasoning and no longer preserving what He left to our charge.
As the world around us decays on many levels, I wonder if too many of us have lost our savor, our saltiness. We can point at so many people and things as the problem, but have we forgotten who we are to be and our responsibility?
What kind of salt are we?