Last week we saw that Jesus told His disciples that they were to be salt and light. He never told children and young people to be this while He was here on earth. When we try to apply this command to children and youth, we are taking it out of context. This week I want to look at this passage from another perspective. To do this, I will need to go back to the days when I taught high school chemistry.
Salt is one of the most abundant compounds found in the earth. Have you ever wondered what salt can do? This is a very important question to ask and answer before we expect a child to be salt. Salt is an amazing compound. I learned that salt can perform several different functions. Consider the following.
- Salt preserves – This is the most common use of salt that is applied to Jesus’ admonition for His disciples to be the salt of the earth. When I lived in Virginia, I visited a ham house at a local farm. Inside I saw all the hams hanging from the ceiling heavily caked in salt. That salt was covering each ham to preserve it from spoiling. When a Christian tries to be salt in this world, he/she must cake an anti-Christian, postmodern culture with the distinctiveness of Christianity. To do this salt must keep its “saltiness” so it can preserve the culture.
- Salt flavors – When one sprinkles salt on a grilled steak, he doesn’t do so to preserve it but to flavor it. Christians are to flavor this world with Christlike character. It takes time for a Christian to develop the godly character needed to add this distinctive flavor to a lost world.
- Salt creates thirst – The old adage that says you can lead a horse to water but can’t make it drink is true. However, if you put a salt block there, the horse will become thirsty and drink from the water. Restaurants sometimes offer its customers free popcorn or other salty snacks. Sometimes the motive is not just to be nice but to cause the customer to be thirsty and run up a large beverage bill. Christians who are equipped to be salt must have the ability to cause lost people to thirst for God and His salvation. Few children have this ability.
- Salt cleanses – It may not be something anyone wants to experience but one can clean out a fresh cut by running some salt water over the wound. I would rather use a soothing ointment but if it isn’t available, salt can provide protection from infection. Again, this is a very difficult thing for a young, immature Christian to try and do.
- Salt heals – When I was growing up, my mother would make me gargle salt water to heal sores that would sometimes form on my lips or inside my mouth. I remember the awful taste and how I wanted to spit it out but she made me keep it in my mouth for some time so that the sores would heal. I cannot imagine sending any of my children out into this world to try and heal the wounds caused by sin.
- Salt melts coldness – Growing up in the Buffalo, NY area, I endured many a harsh winter. One thing we always kept in the house and in the trunk of our cars was salt. When salt is spread on an icy path or road, it lowers the freezing point of water and ends up melting the coldness. To be salt, Christians must have the maturity to go into a dark, lost world that is cold to the gospel. We are to have the character and maturity to melt the cold hardness of a lost person’s heart. This is hardly something that most children are capable of doing.
- Salt raises boiling points – We live in a violent world. The news is filled with tragic accounts of people whose boiling point is reached and they go berserk. The results are disastrous. When one puts salt in water, it actually raises the boiling point so that water will get hotter without boiling. This allows the potatoes or spaghetti to cook at a quicker rate and the result is tastier food. As salt, Christians must raise the boiling point in society as we live our lives as peacemakers. It takes a mature godly Christian to be able to do this.
As you can see salt has a lot of very useful purposes. Sometimes we get the idea that being the salt of the earth means that we just need to be “in” the world. If we carry our Bibles to work or school and pray before we eat our meals, we are fulfilling God’s expectations for being the salt of the world. When we consider what salt is expected to do, we understand that just letting people know that we are a Christian is not enough.
Salt, to do any of the functions listed above, must first of all make contact with what ever it is trying to influence. When we send a young child or teen into this dark, sinful world to be salt, we are expecting them to be able to make contact with the world around them and be a powerful force to retard the effects of sin. This puts a child in a very dangerous situation because it takes a strong, mature faith in God and a very good grasp of God’s Word just to survive in this dangerous culture, much less do the work of salt.
As we educate our children and youth, we must be diligent to protect them from the dangerous philosophies of this world while we prepare them to develop the character to one day be salt in this world. Children are not equipped to do the work of salt and, therefore, should never be put into situations that require them to do the work of a mature disciple of Christ. What do you think about the functions of salt and Christ’s command for us to be the “salt of the world?” More to come next week….