“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its saltiness, how can you make it salty?”
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“For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is good, but if the salt should lose its saltiness, how can you make it salty? Have salt among yourselves and be at peace with one another.” Mark 9:49-50 (HCSB)
I heard a comedian once say, “I bought some powdered water…I don’t know what to add.” Perhaps similar logic could be used to explain the uselessness of salt-less salt!
Theologians have tried to explain this passage from several different angles. First, in the days of Jesus, salt was a valuable commodity. Soldiers were partially paid in salt. The word “soldier” comes from the Latin term “sal dare,” meaning to give salt. Our word “salary” comes from the similar Latin word “salarium,” meaning to get salt. In today’s passage, the image of “Fire” is obviously speaking of a trial or difficult season.
Using this approach, Jesus could have been saying that our worth will be determined (or at least evaluated) by how well we endure suffering. That is, the trials we face should bring us to an understanding of the value of our faith.
Furthermore, if the trial exposes that we are unfaithful, what good is our religion (outward expression) if founded on such weak faith? In such a case, corrupted religion must be scrapped & hauled away, with true religion brought in to establish the proper faithful foundation.
Continuing with that line of thought, Jesus would be directing His disciples to have peace with one another by seeing each individual’s value to the kingdom, as a soldier “worth his salt” has value to the Roman Empire.
Another approach to “saltiness” is that Temple sacrifices had to be seasoned with salt as a sign of the permanence of God’s covenant.
“You are to season each of your grain offerings with salt; you must not omit from your grain offering the salt of the covenant with your God.” Leviticus 2:13a (HCSB)
“Therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, I urge you to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God; this is your spiritual worship.” Romans 12:1 (HCSB)
In this case, Jesus is saying that the trials we endure act as a preservative reminder of God’s covenant with us through Messiah. Trials make us cry out to Him. When He responds faithfully, our faith is strengthened. If our flesh compels us to rebel against Him (because of trials), it would be better to abandon our flesh in favor of our faith. Additionally, the strength of a healthy church is that it holds us accountable and encourages our relationship with the Lord.
Here’s the obvious: The Christian life is not absent of conflict. Rather, it is the presence of peace in the midst of conflict that should distinguish us as belonging to Jesus.
©Steve Wiggins 2021