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Bible Gemz 1027 - The Uses of Salt: What's the Point for Us? Luke 14:34-35)

June 26, 2019

"Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? 

Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!"(Luke 14:34-35)



Salt has different properties that are useful. I drew your attention to the fact yesterday that Matthew and Mark also use this saying of Jesus but in different contexts. That is not surprising when salt has many different points of comparison that could be used. I don't intend to analyze Matthew or Mark, our focus at the moment are these two verses in Luke's gospel in the context of discipleship. Was this just a throw-away line that Luke squeezed in here or is it indeed connected to the concept of discipleship? Is Luke responsible for these two verses on salt being here in this location in his gospel or was it Jesus who placed it here by virtue of what He said at the time? It could be either. Luke moves elements around to make a point or connect pieces together. He could well be the one responsible for verses 34 and 35 being here. On the other hand it could well have been Jesus who used these verses in this sequence and Luke is merely reporting it. Jesus most likely used many elements like this in multiple places. I frequently use illustrations or teaching modules in different contexts depending on the point being made. I am sure Jesus did the same. You will have tp ask either Luke or Jesus when you see either of them to determine who was ultimately responsible for the position of these two verses.


The essential thing we have to do with a unit like this is to work out the point of comparison being used. What aspect of salt is in focus here? 

There are numbers of uses for salt now in our modern world and it has not changed all that much since ancient times. 


Salt was used: 


1) as seasoning – a little salt in the food adds or imparts flavour and also draws out or highlights the other flavours present. Mixed with water, salt will permeate anything. A little salt will go a long way, in that way it is similar "to yeast leavening the whole lump". There are other uses in cooking too such as speeding the process of boiling water. 


2) as a limiting factor – salt prevents the boiling eggs from spilling through a crack as they boil. It is a limiting agent. 


3) as a preservative – salt was used as a preservative in ancient times. Because there were no refrigerators, salt was carried on a long journey to preserve the meat or fish or other foods which deteriorated quickly. Salt slows corruption or the processes which leads to food "going off".


4) as a purifying / disinfectant agent – as in the above examples, apart from preservation, salt also purifies. Meat or other perishable food items can be made pure by the use of salt. When placed in a wound it stings because the salt, especially in solution, is permeating the wound and combating the infection. Gargling with salt is an excellent method of combating a sore throat for that reason. Salt was also used as a weed killer in ancient times. 


5) as an agent to lower the soil Ph factor - in the ancient world when the salt had lost its power and had taken on impurities or would start to break down because it had become damp and its usefulness had been watered down it was thrown out. Salt was frequently thrown on the manure heap or on the gardens. It slows the fermentation process in the compost heap. In fact salt can aid soil fertility by lowering the soil ph factor, the measuring standard of the acidity – alkalinity levels of the soil. Soil salts are highest just after harvest and lowest in the winter months with excessive leaching. The soil can also be rendered useless with high salt levels from salt water encroachment and brackish water leaving a salt pan below the surface after leaching. (sorry it's the Geographer – soil science coming out in me). 


6) as wages – back in ancient times workers were often paid in salt, leading to the term "not worth his salt". The word salarium became the forunner for salary – paid in salt.


7) as an emetic agent – to induce vomiting. 


The question we must now face is which of these properties of salt are in focus in this passage? In Matthew the quality when used in association with light is as a purifying agent. Mark appears to use it as agent for peace. 


Which of the above six properties is in focus here? (I don't include the 7th example in this segment.)


How does this relate to discipleship?


I think I am going to make a break at this point and put the rest into tomorrow's gem. Simply because there is much I wish to say about the impact of a true disciple and some of the properties of salt that are outlined above. If I add them to this Gemz it will become overly long. So I will break it here and add the rest tomorrow. Of course that has the added benefit of letting you soak in salt overnight. Ponder on it and let the properties of salt permeate your being. [Sorry enough of the punning. It's the English teacher coming out. Now all that remains to surface is the History teacher, tennis coach and soccer coach].



You are the salt of the earth. But what good is salt if it has lost its flavor? . . . It will be thrown out and trampled underfoot as worthless. Jesus 


Nobody likes having salt rubbed into their wounds even if it is the salt of the earth. Rebecca West


No man is worth his salt who is not ready at all times to risk his well-being, his body, his life in a great cause. Theodore Roosevelt


Lust is the craving for salt of a man who is dying of thirst. Frederick Buechner 


Three things are good in small doses and bad in big ones: yeast, salt and hesitation. Hebrew Proverb




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