You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has lost its taste (purpose), how can it be made salty?
For Jesus to talk about salt in this parable would’ve been a powerful reference for all the listeners and disciples. Salt was how Roman soldiers were paid. Salt was known as divine to the Greeks. In Mosaic law, salt was required in all offerings presented to God. Salt was used to preserve meats and foods because there was no ability to refrigerate. For us in the Western modern world, our immediate reaction is to think of salt as added flavor to our food. Although this can have some merit, it’s probably not what the original listener would understand to be what Jesus was references.
Regardless of which interpretation the listeners might’ve had, it would’ve been apparent that His description of humans was an important one. Jesus is saying that we are very important to Him and very important to all that He has created—meaning the earth and all that is in it. This is not a little statement. Those hearing this parable would’ve been astonished at the confident declaration of how important they are and how vital their purpose is. Salt seems small and insignificant, but to God it was very important.
This is also an important distinction from how these people would’ve felt. Remember Jesus had just outlined who was going to be happy and excited about His Kingdom in His beatitudes. It was a list of people you wouldn't expect from a leader and teacher. Jesus was speaking to all those who did not feel choosable, all those that who helpless and hopeless, all those who felt broken and forgotten. He is preaching to that type of crowd, and right near the beginning of this powerful message, He declares that these people, these humans, are the salt of the earth!
It was such a radical statement. To place that much value on these people was not expected. But Jesus reveals that He is no ordinary human, no regular teacher, no common man. People knew this by many things that Jesus did and said, but a way that people definitely knew Jesus was very different was His belief and empowerment of others. To place this much value, clear identity and purpose on fellow human beings was unheard of—and yet here is Jesus declaring "You are the salt of the earth!"
To be defined as salt might seem small and insignificant, but as we will learn it was very much the opposite for Jesus.
// Pastor Josh Kelsey