What Did Jesus Mean, “You Are The Salt Of The Earth?”

What Did Jesus Mean, “You Are The Salt Of The Earth?” January 17, 2018

Jesus said that we are to be the salt of the earth, so what did He mean by this?

Worth their Salt

In ancient times, salt was a valuable commodity. So much so that it became a currency of sorts. Sometimes people were paid with salt or paid for something with salt. If someone didn’t work hard enough, or their character seemed questionable, they might be thought of as “not being worth their salt.” In fact, the word “salary” comes from the word salt. For example, a Roman soldier’s salary specifically meant the amount of money allotted to that soldier to buy the amount of salt he would need, but sometimes they paid the Roman soldiers wages along with a provision of salt. The salt was actually worth more than the wages they receive, because salt was an expensive, but it was essential. Salt is not just vital to the human body, but before there was refrigeration or preservatives, it was the only way they could preserve food. Just about everything was salted. If not, spoilage would occur and food supplies were sometimes scarce, but salt does a lot more than just protect against spoilage. Salt enhances the flavor of food. Job asked, “Can something tasteless be eaten without salt, Or is there any taste in the white of an egg” (Job 6:6)? Not for me there isn’t. Until I use a little salt, the white of an egg tastes a little like unflavored gelatin; without taste. A lot of things taste better with salt.

Salt of the Earth

Jesus said, “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” (Matt 5:13), but what did He mean by saying salt that’s lost its taste is “only good to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet?” When salt becomes mixed with impurities, it’s basically worthless for human consumption, but there is one purpose that corrupted salt has, and that’s to be trampled on. Salt wasn’t even good for cleansing wounds when it had impurities in it, so the bad salt would be spread out over the roadways and walkways. The salt repelled water and hardened the ground over time. Since the impurities of the salt rendered it useless for humans to use, it was only good for one thing; being “thrown out and trampled under people’s feet,” meaning it is no good to anyone…unless that is, you want something to walk on, but what did Jesus mean by saying we’re the salt of the earth?


Salted Speech

The Apostle Paul mentioned the idea of saltiness when he wrote to the church at Colossae: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person,” (Gal 4:6), but what is speech seasoned with salt? Paul states the desired outcome as knowing how “to answer each person,” and hopefully like the Apostle Peter said, “with gentleness and respect,” (1 Pet 3:15), so salty speech is gentle speech. It is giving the right and godly response, regardless of what was said. Salted speech contains words that show respect and dignity for others. We don’t focus on what response people deserve to hear, but a response people need to hear. We know that harsh words stir up anger, but soft answers can calm things down (Prov 15:1), so our words should not respond in kind, but when insulted, “answer each person…with gentleness and respect.” That is speech seasoned with salt. Salted speech contains words that edify, encourage, and exhort. They build upward and not tear downward. That’s the reason Paul commanded Timothy to, “Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers” (2 Tim 2:14). As someone has said, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink, but you can feed them salty peanuts (1 Pet 3:15).

Preservative and Cleanser

I remember in one of the first jobs of my life, my boss would sometimes wash out the coffee pot. He used crushed ice and salt water to do it, and by the time he was finished, it was crystal clear. He also said it disinfected it because salt water is a cleanser and acts as a germicidal. He also used a bit of salt in making his coffee by adding some salt to the coffee grounds before brewing, and it did make it smoother.  As a kid I remember gargling with warm salt water and my sore throat going away or my toothache easing up. There are lots of things you can do with salt besides spice up the taste of food. In fact, you can’t get away from salt because there’s salt in just about everything you eat. Some of it acts as a preservative, but most of it is supposed to help give improve the taste of the food. Of course, the bad thing is, too much salt can kill you. If you’re lost at sea, don’t drink the seawater! Drinking saltwater might help temporarily, but it rapidly increases your thirst, and the more you drink, the closer and closer you’ll get to dying from dehydration. Too much salt can increase the risk for many things, like stroke and high blood pressure. And adding too much salt on food will ruin it, so if we are to be salt in this world, using speech that is salted with gentleness and respect, we can’t overwhelm people to the point of being obnoxious. Too much can leave a bitter taste in people’ mouth. Too much of anything is usually not good.


In the context of Jesus’ saying we are the salt of the earth, I believe He was saying, we are to be an example for the world, set upon a hill for everyone around us to see, like He mentioned in this same paragraph (Matt 5:13-16). We are to be a light that shines in the darkness, but a light that we don’t hold in someone’s face, but neither do we leave it at home (under a basket), so Jesus’ comment about our being the salt of the earth and the light of the world, was in the context of letting our “light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matt 5:16). It was a matter of having our speech salted with kind words of grace, even to those who hate us and abuse us. Jesus said, “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you” (Luke 6:27-28). In short, be the salt of the earth. But first, you have to get out of the shaker.

Article by Jack Wellman

Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren Church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is a writer at Christian Quotes and also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Teaching Children the Gospel available on Amazon.

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  • pud

    No, your mythical “jesus” didn’t say anything. He didn’t write anything, left nothing, said nothing. Your BOOK “claims” this character existed, claims he said this or that but there is NO evidence that a single word in your storybook is true. Not a lick.

    In fact, as I’ve pointed out a thousand times, your BOOK is filled with hundreds of contradictions, impossibilites and falsehoods. Your made up character “jesus” was a moral monster who advocated human slavery, hatred towards family and was little more than one of many common cult leaders of the time.

    Of course FACTS don’t mean shit to you do they jack?

    PS…’gods” do not need glory….only the man made human form “gods” with all the attendant human traits do….again jack…the MADE UP “gods” which is ALL of them

    Stop lying to children

  • pud

    During what was known as the “Little Ice Age” glaciers were growing all over Europe. In one alpine village a glacier was threatening to swallow the town. The priests of the town (like you jack) were convinced that the advancing ice was of the “devil” They banded together and hiked to the base of the glacier armed with jugs of “holy water” and conducted an exorcism to rid the town of the demonic glacier. It didn’t work! LOL

    When the potato was introduced to Europe the very same type of delusional priests were convinced that the tuber was of satan. They called it the devils root because it was dirty and the leaves toxic. They declared it a sin to eat them. It wasn’t until much later when a king who was fond of them ate many of them and by decree undid the ruling of the priests. Do you eat french fires jack or do “demons” haunt McDonalds?

    • Dan Ghosoph

      WHAT THEY SHOULD HAVE DONE… build many piles of wood … and had a bon fires going .. to turn the ice into water… and they could have been … better off .. some times.. ignorant people have… ideas that have very little of GODS WISDOM.. !!

    • Dan Ghosoph

      Solomon wrote that there are “six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him” (Prov 6:16) and these include “haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Prov 6:17-19). If you look at each one of these seven things that God detests you can see that pride is at the center of each one, particularly “haughty eyes” because the Hebrew word for haughty is “ruwm” and means “to rise, to be high, to be lofty,” and “to be exalted” so we can see that this is exactly what pride is. It is to be exalted above others and this makes them naturally look down, condescendingly, on others. What causes a person to lie? Usually it is the fact that they are protecting themselves…pride is at the core. Someone who stirs up conflict is someone who wants to look better than others and being compared to them, they are deemed superior. Pride was the first sin…cosmic treason, against God and it is at the root of all sin.

  • Monty

    I agree with you 100%, Jack. I also believe that the idea of “salt” as a preservative is important. Salt will not change the produce but it will prevent it spoiling. We are seeing the consequences of the decline of Christianity all over the Western world. It’s not pretty. The world is becoming increasingly corrupt, Islam is swamping formerly Christian nations, a handful of people control most of the wealth and so on. We surely need “salty” words more than ever. Christians fighting other Christians over semantics and unproveable doctrinal interpretations is not helping.

    • Jack Wellman

      So true my friend. This arguments over semantics is like minoring in the majors while the major in the minors. Thank you for your comment Monty.

      • pud

        It’s not true. Your cult is just as bad as any other.

    • pud

      Your cults history is no better than Islam. If you were in power again people would be burning at the stake, science would be back to leeches and bloodletting and everyone would be more stupid than they already are!

      Your cult is no answer for another deranged cult

      The sooner ALL religions are tossed the better it will be for ALL.

    • Jack Wellman

      Poor Pud. She is such a blessing in disguines (Matt 5:10-12) but is so lost. Praying for Pud as she/he(?) needs a miracle…troll or not (and defintely a troll!).

      • Monty

        Pud is persistent, if nothing else. Obviously he has zero life. It is a great shame. If he would seek the Lord while He may be found (now) Pud would discover the true God, the true Jesus and true life. Right now all he has nothing. He will never permit facts to interfere with his prejudice, so I’ve given up talking to him. I say “he” because I find it hard to imagine a female as aggressive and obnoxious as pud.

        • pud

          I have a GREAT life! Going skiing in Austria come March! whoo hoo!

          Demonstrate that ANY “god” past or present ever existed/exists….waiting

          Show just ONE of your “facts”…waiting

      • pud

        Poor you…no voice to confront me…no courage to debate me.

  • Doug Barron

    Great perspective, and illustrative, Pastor!
    Salt is LIFE! Try living a few weeks without it!
    On language in scripture: Paul the Apostle was writing against the Judaizers; stating in Gal. 5:12, “I wish that these legalist Judaizers would go castrate themselves!” (My parephrase)
    There was some “salt” in that statement! I like that!
    Paul is a man’s man!
    Bluntly loving and harshly gentle!
    I think I could have had some great and laughing times in the company of Paul! (Shipwrecks, shakebites, chains, stonings even?)
    I appreciate bluntness, coupled with honest love!
    Paul mastered it. He has true SALT!

    • pud

      Try drinking salt water for a few weeks…you’ll find out that too much salt is death.

      But that’s ok seeing as you’re a cheerleader for a death cult and the end of the world can’t come fast enough for you lunatics

      “paul” was a psychotic murderer who had delusional visions. You really should do proper homework

    • Jack Wellman

      Thank you Mr. Barron. True about Paul. Few else could have went thru what he went through.

  • Dan Ghosoph

    SALT.. is an anti-septic.. anti-fungal.. anti-viral.. anti-bacterial..and anti-parasitic.. .. my mom would place any meat she bought.. in a thick bath of salty water and then place it in the fridgerator.. for 24 hours before she cooked the meat.. I asked her why she said to make sure the meat was cleansed ..she was from the old school and this is how they cleaned the meats before eating… the cooked meats .. in the days of columbus they would pack all meat in salty containers …packed with salt.. meat goes in pack it with salt.. more meat more salt and layer upon layer of meat with salt for the long jouirneys.. on the high seas..
    my only question is this …