A short time ago, I had the opportunity to tour an ancient salt mine located deep in the mountains near Salzburg, Austria. Our tour guide noted that in this particular mine, the evidence shows that Celtic miners had already begun working these deposits more than 3000 years ago. Archaeological finds, from pine torches to "the man in the salt" (a salt preserved body found in the mine), bear witness not only to Celtic mining but to their highly developed culture as well. Salt provided the financial basis for art and culture. In the Middle Ages, salt was known as "White Gold."
Salt was still highly valued in the days when our Lord, Jesus Christ, was on earth. The Roman soldiers of the time were paid a salarium (Latin for salt), the basis of our modern word salary. Salt in those days was not only valued as a seasoning for food, but in a era lacking refrigeration, salt was necessary for preserving food and, for that matter, for preserving life itself.
In the so-called Sermon on the Mount, Jesus told His disciples that they were the "salt of the earth." Now much has been said and written about the obvious meanings of this scripture. We can see that, as salt seasons food by being lightly scattered upon it, so too Christians season the earth by being scattered throughout the various nations of the earth. By living in accordance with God's Way of Life, Christians also preserve the earth by slowing the decay of morals in the society around them.
But let's look at the last part of this statement of Jesus; "You are the salt of the earth: but if the salt has lost its savor, wherewith shall it be salted? It is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men (Matthew 5:13). Just what did Christ mean by saying that salt could loose its savor? Have you ever tasted salt that wasn't salty? Of course not! We know that NaCl or Sodium Chloride, our common table salt, will always taste salty as long as it remains chemically unchanged or pure. So what was Christ talking about?
In those days, houses in Jerusalem often had an upper room, used for guests or other special occasions. It was in such an upper room that Christ ate the Passover meal with His disciples shortly before His crucifixion. The floors of these rooms were made of wood overlaid with plaster. But ordinary wall plaster was too soft to be walked upon without cracking and crumbling. In order to harden the plaster for use in floors, salt was added to it. It was then suitable to be "trodden under foot of men." Of course, this mixture then ceased to be suitable for the purpose of seasoning or preserving.
Jesus was telling us that Christians need to be pure in order to be a blessing to mankind. When we mix salt with another substance, it ceases to be useable as salt. If we add a small amount, a drop, of poison to a glass of pure water, it is no longer pure water. When we mix the clear instructions of the Bible on the way God wants to be worshiped with the traditions of men, the result is a vain attempt to please Him. This is precisely what Jesus warned the Scribes and Pharisees about, saying, "Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition." (Mark 7:7,9).
This blending of truth and error, known as syncretism, is a favorite tool of Satan the devil. People will readily see pure error for what it is, but when mixed with a sufficient amount of the truth, the error becomes believable. We see this to a large degree in the modern celebrations of Christmas and Easter. Almost no one will argue the fact that elements like mistletoe, ivy and evergreen trees or chocolate bunnies and colored eggs are not found in the Bible and in fact, come to us from non-Christian sources. However, they will argue that today, these things are used to honor and worship Jesus Christ and the Father.
What does God have to say about this kind of blended worship? "When the LORD your God shall cut off the nations from before you, where you go to possess them, and you succeed them, and dwell in their land; Take heed to yourself that you be not snared by following them, after they are destroyed from before you; and that you inquire not after their gods, saying, 'How did these nations serve their gods?' even so will I do likewise. You shall not do so unto the LORD your God: for every abomination to the LORD, which he hates, have they done unto their gods" (Deuteronomy 12:29-30).
God has given us very clear instructions in the Bible on how He wants us to worship Him. His Holy Days, commandments, statutes and judgements are all laid out for us to read and follow. We should not try to improve on them, but simply do them.
April 22, 2000