You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.
Matthew 5:13 (NIV)
Christian behaviors demonstrate Christian beliefs. True disciples live lives conspicuously different from unbelievers, and their character (as expressed in the Beatitudes) functions as salt in the world. Christ’s servants play a visible and compelling role, and their very lives are marked for a particular purpose.
The emphatic tone of Jesus underscored the role of His disciples: “You and you alone are the salt of the earth” (v. 13). He was not announcing an opportunity for the entire world, but declaring a reality only for His followers. Like commissioned agents with specific orders, the effect their lives would bring was clearly determined.
Just as salt brings flavor by improving the taste of food, so their lives likewise would greatly affect those around them by bringing an enlightened understanding of life. The kingdom of God on earth shows lost people how to make a good but fallen world more beautiful. Because of their witness both in word and deed, the “salt” of their lives would slow down society’s decay and preserve what would otherwise result in futility and death.
A possibility for failure accompanied this declaration. It was possible for salt to lose its “saltiness.” It did not, however, change into another element (like sulfur), but it did forfeit its right of usage. Once that happened, it became good for nothing—literally it ceased to function in any way at all except for one purpose—to be discarded. That which was originally designed to be “good” became “good for nothing.”
The presence of salt makes a difference. It cannot help but do so. Therefore, the possibility that a true Christian could live in the world without impacting it is as absurd as supposing that salt could not be salty. Christians devoid of influence are useless. The world will ultimately lose respect for Christians who have forgotten the purpose for which they were created—to glorify God in the world.
Civilization’s greatest hope for preservation is Christians. The sense of divine accountability echoed in the words of Jesus underscores the influence believers have to arrest some of the effects of human corruption in culture. Christians bear responsibility for influencing society by living like Christians in every area of life. They are not to be sequestered or silent, but active in evangelism, working to right wrongs, and laboring to bring about justice. Their conduct and integrity preserve and flavor not only their own lives, but the lives of those around them.