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Matthew 5:13 reports that Jesus said:
‘You are the salt of the earth,
But if salt becomes weak, is it still salt?
No, when it no longer has strength,
It’s thrown outside to be walked on.’
But does salt ever go ‘weak,’ and lose its ‘strength,’ or taste?
In ancient times, yes. You see, today when we say ‘salt’, we think of common table salt (sodium chloride). However, ancient peoples did not have such a pure and refined salt for their food.
When salt is found in or upon the ground in desert areas (such as the Middle East), the salt that is collected is actually a combination of sodium chloride and other salts, such as borax. Many of these other salts have no salty flavor.
Therefore, with these impure types of salt, high humidity can leach the sodium chloride out from the mixture. This leaves a tasteless ‘salt’ which is of very little use for anything. So, it may well be ‘thrown outside to be walked on,’ just as Jesus described.
What is the point of this parable?
From the parallel account found at Luke 14:34-35, we learn that Jesus was talking to his followers about the responsibilities that come with being his disciples. Anyone who becomes his disciple, but then changes his mind, is as worthless as salt that has lost its strength (or strong taste).
So when Jesus spoke of a person having ‘salt’ in himself, it seems to indicate that the person has strength of character. This may be the same point that God was making at Numbers 18:19, when He made a ‘Sacred Agreement of Salt’ with the Priests of ancient IsraEl, as more was to be expected of them due to their holy position before Him.
Likewise, being ‘thrown outside’ is the fate of Christians who, after they’ve been called by God, later decide that they aren’t willing to put up the strong fight needed to remain a disciple of Jesus.