“Pass the salt, please” is a common request at mealtime.
Yet, wars have been waged, fortunes made and lost, and history rewritten all because of the only rock we eat. It is so vital to life that as recently as 100 years ago it secured empires and inspired revolutions.
In the desert sands of the Middle East searchers have found the well-preserved bodies of Egyptians dating back four thousand years. The Egyptians believed one’s earthly body had to be preserved if a person was to enjoy an afterlife, so they preserved their kings’ bodies with natron—a salt.
Salt has the ability to preserve, to protect against decay, as well as to sustain life. In addition, it was and is to the Jews a symbol of the eternal nature of God’s covenant with Israel (see Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chronicles 13:5). In contrast to salt’s lasting nature, Jews like to say, “Wealth has no salt” because money has no staying power.
Salt is also used to seal promises of loyalty and friendship. The Arabs say of a friend, “There is salt between us” and “He has eaten of my salt.” This indicates a shared meal—a very intimate time in Middle Eastern culture.
Throughout history salt has been associated with longevity and permanence, as well as “truth and wisdom.” For example, the Roman Catholic Church dispenses “holy water,” but it also dispenses “holy salt.” It is called sal sapientia, the “salt of wisdom.”*
God’s Word is the sal sapientia for the person who has trusted in Christ. It is his final authority in addressing any issue. Also, Colossians 4:6 admonishes the Christian to season his speech with grace, just as he seasons food with salt. Committing God’s Word to memory helps preserve his faith and helps make him “salty,” thus seasoning the culture around him with truth and grace.
Jesus asked, “If the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again?” (Matthew 5:13). To be effective, the Christian must depend on God’s Word as his ultimate authority in every area of life—from personal devotions to philosophy, from science to the arts.
As salt melts ice, God’s Word melts hearts. As salt is used for curing, God’s Word dries up sin in the soul. It’s infinitely better than the salt that the Egyptians used to preserve dead bodies.
One ancient method of salt production was to boil seawater in large iron pans. Then, at the right moment, the salt master would add a few drops of blood to draw impurities to the surface. Once at the surface the impurities could be skimmed away, leaving only pure, white crystals.*
Due to the precious blood shed by Jesus Christ, the Christian is declared pure and is called to season his culture. Jesus proclaimed, “You are the salt of the earth . . . .”
So, “Please, pass the salt.”
* See Mark Kurlansky, Salt: A World History (Penguin, 2003).