Worth your salt

Read: Numbers 30-31, Mark 9:30-50

Little Manitou Lake in Saskatchewan has a mineral density three-times that of the oceans. Who cares? Well, what this means is that, unless you intentionally put your head under water and breathe in, you can’t drown. The water is so dense, a human being can float with no effort at all. The high mineral—salt—concentration in the lake (and spa where the lake water is piped in) has disinfectant and healing properties. It is only one of three inland bodies of water on the planet that has such properties (the Dead Sea being another). It’s rare. It’s special. It’s worth taking note.

Mark 9-50.jpg

Many of us might read through this little verse and just assume that Jesus wants us to be flavourful, add a little spice to the world around us. That’s what salt is for, after all. And that little part about being at peace with each other, just a nice little add-on. The complexity and weight of this verse is completely lost on us if we don’t understand the cultural connotations of salt at the time Jesus said these words.

  1. Salt was valuable. When you start a new job you settle on what? A salary. Ever wonder where that word originated from? You’d better be worth your salt or you won’t be keeping that job. Some speculate that, because of it’s high value in the Roman empire, that soldiers were often paid in salt. Roads were built because of salt. Trades were made because of salt. Lives were made or lost because of salt.
  2. Salt healed. Like patrons of Little Lake Manitou, the Romans were also aware of the healing properties of salt. Drinking a saltwater solution could reset the digestive system. Soaking an open wound in saline could help prevent swelling and infection.
  3. Salt preserved. While the term pickled didn’t arrive on the scene for centuries, the concept of preserving food with salt was not lost on the Roman empire. Salty olives were as much a part of the Mediterranean diet then as they are now.
  4. Salt was considered holy. Since Leviticus 2:13, salt was a part of Jewish sacrificial offerings. No sacrifice was to be made without it.
  5. Salt declared covenant. In both Jewish and Roman cultures, sharing salt at a table was indicative of covenant or servitude. For the Romans, to eat salt from the table of another put you in their service. For the Jews, to share bread with salt was a sign of covenant between those who share the meal.

When we take into account the historical significance of salt, this verse is so much more than a little platitude for us to remember. Whether in food or water, the presence of salt is undeniable. Imagine a society without salt. Imagine your life without salt? It’s impossible. As trivial as those little granules may seem, they are an essential part of our lives.

Now take that idea and apply it to believers.

Everything that salt was to society when Jesus walked this planet, we should still be to our culture today. Believers should add value, no matter where we are. We should bring healing. We should preserve those things that are good and helpful and nourishing to every life. We should be set apart as holy. And we should share a covenant not only with God, but with each other. Our lives should be set apart for service to the Father and to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Suddenly this verse isn’t so little and that last bit about being at peace with each other means a little more.

Are you worth your salt?

Law to love

If, according to Galatians 5:14, the whole law can be summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbours as yourself”, the words law and love should be interchangeable through much of the Old Testament. Jesus came and fulfilled the law with love—great love. So what does that fulfillment look like in light of the law according to Psalm 119?

I meditate on your age-old [love];
O Lord, [it] comfort[s] me.

v. 52

Your [love has] been the music of my life
throughout the years of my pilgrimage.

v. 54

I pondered the direction of my life,
and I turned to follow your [love].

v. 59

Evil people try to drag me into sin.
but I am firmly anchored to your [love].

v. 61

Your [love] is more valuable to me
than millions in gold and silver!

v. 72

Surround me with your tender mercies so I may live;
for your [love] is my delight.

v. 77

Your [love] remains true today,
for everything serves your plan

v. 91

Even perfection has its limits,
but your [love has] no limit.

v. 96

Your [love] make[s] me wiser than my enemies,
for your [love is] my constant guide.

v. 98

Your [love] give[s] me understanding;
no wonder I hate every false way of life.

v. 104

When we look at the law through Jesus and his fulfillment of it, what a difference it makes in our understanding of these verses! It’s not a bunch of rules and regulations that we follow, but love—perfect love at that. Love that gives understanding and wisdom. Love that teaches. Love that is valuable. Love that has no limits. Love that is our delight.

If the psalmist found all of these things in the law that God gave to Israel, how much more should we be able to find in the love that fulfilled the law?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 119:49-104, 1 Corinthians 4

Worthless

Where do you find your worth? Do you feel as though you have any worth at all? If you don’t, where do you go looking for worth?

These are all huge questions we all face every day whether we realise it or not. And, the fact of the matter is, most people are looking for worth in all the wrong places. Our worth isn’t in our perfect weight or appearance. It’s not in our work or our family. It’s not in our friends or relationships.

Our worth is found in our worship. What you worship will determine your worth.

They rejected the laws and the covenant he had made with their ancestors, and they despised all his warnings. They worshipped worthless idols and became worthless themselves. They followed the examples of the nations around them, disobeying the Lord’s command not to imitate them.

2 Kings 17:15 (NLT)

There is a very valid reason why God wanted Israel to completely annihilate the previous residents of the Promised Land—He knew that His people were easily swayed and that, if any evil remained, Israel would fall prey to it. So what did Israel do? They let a bunch of the previous residents stay. And what happened? Israel fell into the worship of pagan gods and idols. Their worth dwindled as they drew away from God.

Today, we all search for worth. Who doesn’t want to be valued? So we dress up, do our makeup, work out, find the perfect man or woman to walk beside us, dress up our kids so they make us look better, work at the high class job and drive the nice car. So why do we still keep searching for worth? Could it be that all those things we worship as good and valuable really hold no value at all?

We can only find our true worth when we set our worship on the only One who is worth anything at all.

What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.

Matthew 10:29-31 (NLT)

Your own search for worth can begin and end with Jesus. Nothing else that you can focus your attention on can fulfill your need to be something or someone. It’s all empty. Worthless. But who could make you feel more valuable than the one who created you?

You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.

Psalm 139:13-14 (NLT)

Nothing is more precious to a craftsman than his own masterpiece. You are God’s masterpiece. In His eyes, you are valuable. You are worthy. You are His creation. You are His.

Daily Bible reading: 2 Kings 15-17, John 6:1-21