November 15, 2016 • Life for Leaders
“Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”
I have always had a certain fondness for salt. As a child, I loved salty potato chips, salty peanuts, and salty just about anything. I can still remember my mother saying to me, “Mark, why do you salt your food before tasting it?” The answer was simple: Salt is good.
But, when I was twenty-five, my doctor discovered that my blood pressure was a bit too high. He encouraged me to cut out as much salt as possible from my diet. So, I stopped salting my food altogether. I limited my intake of delicious salty treats. When it came to my diet, I no longer took literally Jesus’s teaching that “salt is good.”
In the first part of Mark 9:50, Jesus spoke of salt in a literal manner. He was assuming that his disciples knew of salt that was not fully salty, and was therefore unhelpful for cooking and other purposes. Such pseudo-salt was common in the first-century world of Jesus. Salty salt was good; “unsalty” salt was not.
Building on this understanding of salt, Jesus used salt as a metaphor for the distinctiveness of discipleship, for the unique life of the kingdom of God. Those who followed him were living “salty” lives, that is, lives that demonstrated the distinctive “flavor” of the kingdom. The disciples were to “have salt among” themselves by embodying in their community the reality of God’s kingdom. This meant, in particular, that they were to be “at peace with each other.”
As I reflect on Jesus’s teaching in Mark 9:50, I want to share one brief observation. Jesus makes it clear that our saltiness as his followers is something we experience in the community of his people. Saltiness in the mode of Jesus is not a solitary affair. The way we treat each other demonstrates to the world our saltiness, our Christian distinctiveness. Moreover, our fellowship together in Christ accentuates our saltiness. It keeps us from being “desalted” by a “saltless” world. It would be hard, if not impossible, to be salt in the world without first being salt in the community of Jesus. Thus, if we want to be the distinctive disciples Jesus has called us to be, then we need to be deeply engaged with and committed to the salty community, that which we usually call the church.
QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER:
In what ways have you experienced the saltiness of distinctive discipleship?
Where or how are you tempted to lose your saltiness?
What helps you to remain salty and even to grow in your saltiness?
Gracious God, you have set us apart from this world to be distinctive. We are to live according to the invitations of your kingdom, not according to the demands of our secular culture.
Help us, Lord, not to lose our saltiness. May we find ways to encourage and even enhance saltiness in each other. Help us to live at peace, to experience the fulsome peace of your kingdom.
And then, Lord, may we be salt in this world, for your purposes and glory. Amen.
Explore more at the Theology of Work Project online Bible commentary: Salt and Light in the World of Work (Matthew 5:13-16)
Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders, and the founder of the De Pree Center’s Flourishing in the Third Third of Life Initiative. Previously, Mark was the Executive Director of the De Pree Center, the lead pastor of a church in Southern California, and the Senior Director of Laity Lodge in Texas. He has written eight books, dozens of articles, and over 2,500 devotions that help people discover the difference God makes in their daily life and leadership. With a Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard, Mark teaches at Fuller Seminary, most recently in his D.Min. cohort on “Faith, Work, Economics, and Vocation.” Mark is married to Linda, a marriage and family counselor, spiritual director, and executive coach. Their two grown children are educators on the high school and college level.