One of the things that I started doing a few years ago was buying the salt and pepper grinders from Costco. I had always heard that it was better to buy pepper that was whole kernel and then have it ground into pepper flakes so that the flavor and intensity of the pepper was better and the pepper was a fresh as possible.
But the same does not apply for a salt mill or grinder. The whole point of a salt mill is to be able to adjust the size of the salt crystal to be able to control the size of each individual piece of salt you put onto what you are seasoning. A pepper mill doubles in that manner, that it doesn’t just keep the kernels fresh but it also allows you to adjust the size of the pepper flakes that you put onto your food. So if you are putting pepper on a steak you might want bigger pieces of salt and pepper to give each bite a big burst of flavor, but for mashed potatoes you want to flavor it, but not have it overpower the potatoes. They are meant to enhance not really punch the taste.
Now I don’t know for sure but there may be some people who think that by keeping the salt crystal in it’s larger form that it keeps the flavor packed in there, but the salt is already ground down to the size that it is so that it can fit in the bottle in the first place. So the idea that a Costco salt grinder keeps the salt more flavorful until you grind it is not at all accurate.
In fact there is more to it than that, because since salt is simply sodium chloride there is a whole lot of chemistry involved that I wish my brother was here to explain to you. I asked him about it and told him to keep it simple, but in the end he agreed that in most natural instances salt will not just lose its ability to be salty and flavorful. He said that in most instances salt cannot be broken down from its sodium chloride form unless there is some kind of energy forced upon it. So, there is really no way that I can think of or have researched that would cause me to believe that there is a way for salt to lose its saltiness. Salt is salt.
So what does Jesus mean in the last verse of our story when he tells us that salt is good but if it has lost its saltiness how can you season things? If salt cannot lose its flavor because it cannot be broken down any further than what it already is as NaCl, then Jesus saying doesn’t make sense when we look at it from the surface.
However, if we dig deeper into the science of salt and the times that Jesus was speaking there is a lot more we can say about it and discover about salt that will help us understand this verse both in terms of the science of it, but more importantly what it means for us and how it can help us understand the rest of the story that is a part of this verse.
Just as a side note, it might be helpful for me to point out that this verse also appears in and . As you can see in their versions of this story the salt is thrown away and trampled under foot to that it can be disposed of. There is both historical and scientific precedence for how Matthew and Luke share this story with their audiences.
One of the things that I had discovered while researching salt and this saying by Mark, Matthew, and Luke that also came up while talking to my brother is that oftentimes when you do find salt in nature and it is not processed there are a lot of impurities in it. One of the most common my brother told me specifically is potassium and he mentioned iodine and bromine as well. So not all salt at the time of Jesus was as pure as our salt is today.
There are stories of merchants bringing tons of salt to Jerusalem to sell and they placed the salt in abandoned houses because there were not enough store houses to keep them. Unfortunately the salt ended up being very impure and since there was so much of it, it sat in those houses unused for years until one day when it was brought out to sell it was discovered that it had completely lost its salty flavor and taste and would not preserve anything. The merchant took all the ‘salt’ and threw it in the streets for the people to trample on because it was worthless. The salt no longer had any salty or preservative nature to it. The science behind what may have happened is that over the years the salt could have either leeched into the ground or evaporated in the humid air leaving behind all the impure minerals which, as you can tell had no salt flavor or ability to preserve food.
So when Jesus tells us that salt has lost its saltiness he is talking about something that is impure and has had other things put into it that don’t belong there. Salt can’t do it’s salty things because it isn’t salt anymore.
The science behind
Which leads me to share with you what I said at the beginning of my message today and what I teased on Facebook. I believe that if we use the science of NaCl (salt) then it will help us to understand the rest of the story that we have with this line about salt.
The story that is a part of what we read that is just before the salt part, which I might add is terribly hard to understand, is that about cutting off body parts if they cause us to stumble. Does Jesus really want us to cut off our body parts? Is this a literal teaching of Jesus? He does say that we would be better off to enter eternal life maimed than to have all our body parts and go to hell.
If we think about the impurities of salt and other things like gold and other metals we know that there are parts of them that aren’t meant to be there and there is the main part that is meant to be there. The NaCl of salt should be there but nothing else. Gold needs to be gold and nothing else. Each parts of our body are a holy part of us. God reminds us in the Bible that our body is a temple and meant to be kept holy. We should keep our body holy and if there are parts of us that aren’t that way then we should consider getting rid of them because they don’t produce flavor like salt does.
So what parts of our lives don’t produce holy and good flavor? What parts of us don’t preserve that which needs to be preserved for our eternal life? Perhaps this text is giving us a time to intentionally reflect on those things that draw us away from being pure and holy and think about what it would mean and what it would take to intentionally remove those things from our lives. Then we would not have to cut anything off and we would not have to worry about finding out one day that we have lost the flavor of this life and our life eternal.
This leads us to the first part of today’s text and the last part of this sermon. The disciples are upset that there is someone who is not Jesus and not a part of the 12 that is casting out demons, even though he is doing it in the name of Jesus. There is a lot we could say about this part of the story as well, but what is important to point out for the sake of this topic is that this man is an example of what it means to be pure. He has not been given special privileges or powers by Jesus. He was not chosen as one of the 12 or sent out personally by Jesus, but because ht lives a life that is focused on Jesus and his life, body, and intentions are pure he is able to cast out demons in the name of Jesus.
Jesus invites us to be salty and to be at peace with one another. To not worry about what other people are doing but to reflect on ourselves and what it means for each of us as individuals to be salty and then to find peace with one another.
Ultimately it is the peace and love of God as we have received through Jesus Christ that makes us right with God and with one another. Once we let that sink in and once we realize that God purifies us and gives us the salt that never loses its flavor then we are able to share that salt and grace and love and peace that is only known by knowing God. Just as Jesus said, I leave you with his words: Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another. And as I just mentioned, receive the salt and peace of God and know that through Jesus you are made pure, and for that God loves each and every one of us.