The Salt Of The Earth Meaning In The Bible


Jesus in His earthly ministry used a lot of illustrations and parables to convey Kingdom truths to people. This was because it was easier for them to understand than when he talked plainly. He used real-life objects and situations that they could all relate to in order to pass meaning across.

In Matthew 5, He says that we as Christians are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. To many people, the salt of the earth meaning is that Jesus wants us to be sweeter to people, or perhaps spice up their lives. But there’s so much more to salt than being sweet, just as there’s so much more to the metaphor than us being nicer to people.

Why did Jesus liken us to something like that and what is the salt of the earth meaning?

What Does It Mean To Be The ‘Salt Of The Earth?

To fully understand the purpose behind Jesus’ metaphor, we must fully understand the context in which He spoke and the use of salt in His time.

Matthew 5:13 says,

“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.”

While there’s truth in thinking that salt is used to make food sweeter, people forget that salt can also be used as a preservative as well as other things. Its significance lies not just in taste, but also in smell and properties.

In Jewish culture at that time, sacrifices were offered on altars of ancient Israel for the sins of people. Here’s the intriguing part, the Israelites didn’t give the Lord the flesh of the animal or the smoke of whatever sacrifice they were giving. 

The part of the offering acceptable to God actually was the smell. As Leviticus 1:17 puts it, it was “the sweet savor unto the Lord”. The more intriguing part? To ensure that the smell of the sacrifice would be sweet, the Law of Moses clearly stated that it should be sprinkled with salt. 

Leviticus 2:13 says,

“You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.”

Without salt, the smell of the burnt offering would simply be the unpleasant stench of burnt flesh or grains. But the salt changes the savor. So they offered up burnt offerings by first cleansing the body of the animal for sacrifice, dividing them into parts, salting them heavily, and then laying them on the already burning altar.

However, in reference to the second part of Matthew 5:13, where Jesus talked about salt losing its taste, tasteless ones were never used for offerings. At that time salt could easily become bad and lose its taste because of impurities. Using this type of salt in the offering was likely to produce an unpleasant smell, so it was always thrown out, rather than being used and risk presenting an unacceptable sacrifice to God.

When He said that “you are the salt of the earth”, Jesus knew that the people listening to Him would understand the reference because they too gave sacrifices. To a large extent, they would understand the message He was trying to pass across.

The Significance of Salt In The Bible

With this understanding of the significance of salt to the Israelites, we can also understand the ‘salt of the earth’ meaning.

  • As a flavoring

It spices up food and makes it sweeter. We in turn should be like that, bringing flavor to people’s lives, blessing and enhancing the lives of others, and making God’s kingdom better for them. We may show the world what it means to truly live by being different.

Paul says in Colossians 4:6,

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person”.

  • Preservation

In ancient times, salt was so valuable because there were no refrigerators or fridges back then, so it was the only option for preserving food. We also have been put in this world to keep it from rotting with immorality and unrighteousness, to preserve the way of holiness and brightness in an evil world.

  • Sacrifice

We are supposed to be a sweet-smelling savor to the Lord by self-sacrifice and obedience to God. Paul talks about it in Romans 12: 1-2,

“I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”

  • Judgment

The scriptures refer to salt being used more than once to destroy or bring judgment on people. One was Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt for her disobedience. Another is in Judges 9:45 when Gideon’s son Abimelech tried to make himself king of Israel and the men of Shechem rebelled against him, he reacted by razing the city and sowing it with salt.

In a way, we too have been put on earth by God to destroy wickedness, send judgment on evil, and dig up the roots of injustice. To stand against wrongdoings and for the truth.

What Can Today’s Christians Learn From This?

Though many of the properties of salt are no longer in use today, except flavoring, today’s Christians are called to the same purpose. The salt of the earth meaning still applies to us today.

We are charged to bring flavor to people’s lives, preserve holiness in a corrupt world, root out evil, and show the world God’s kingdom through the way we live our lives. 

If we lose our taste and become bad, what then would remain of the world we were put to change? We must be careful not to conform to the standards of the world, but establish God’s standards on it instead.

Final Thoughts

The salt of the earth meaning is a call to be different, to stand out, to be all God has made us Christians to be. We have a responsibility in this world to fulfill by not conforming.

The best part is God doesn’t expect us to fulfill them alone, but with the help of the Holy Spirit, supplying us with strength and wisdom at every turn. Let us, therefore, run with great endurance the race that is set before us so that at the end of the age, we can hear Him say, “well done, good and faithful servant”.