“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.”NRSV In the ancient world, salt was used for flavoring and as a preservative. Instead of being made by evaporation of salt water, the salt came mostly from salt marshes in the area southwest of the Dead Sea. Salt had commercial value, but the impure salt taken from the sea and its environs was susceptible to deterioration that left only useless crystals. Jesus’ question How can its saltiness be restored? did not expect an answer—for once salt has deteriorated, it cannot be used as a preservative. Jesus warned them against being defiled by impurities. Even today in Israel, people scatter such salt on the flat roofs of their homes to harden the soil and prevent leaks. These roofs are still used for children to play and for group gatherings, so the salt is still literally trampled under foot.
As salt preserves and brings out the best flavor of food, so believers should affect others positively. If a seasoning has no flavor (has lost its taste), it has no value. Jesus clearly told his disciples (the word “you” is emphatic, meaning “you, my followers”) that if they wanted to make a difference in the world, they would have to be different from the world. God would hold them accountable to maintain their “saltiness” (that is, their usefulness). If we are too much like the world, we are useless. Christians should not blend in with everyone else. Jesus tells us, as he told the disciples, that we must be different if we want to make a difference. We dare not allow the world to dilute our effectiveness. If we do, we are of no value to him.
Life Application Bible Commentary – Life Application Bible Commentary – Matthew.