In a land of refrigeration, we fully underestimate the value of salt. It meant life. I preserved food which was essential and was so valuable that it was often used to pay wages. Pliny the Elder (1st century guy) stated that the word “salary” came from the word “salt” as the Roman soldiers were often paid in salt. It’s where we get the expression, “worth their salt.” Ancient Chinese considered salt second only to gold in value.
The question that often arises is the chemist’s question. How can salt lose its saltiness? Hyrdrochloride (salt) is one of the 3-4 most strongest compounds in the world. So did Jesus not pass chemistry class?
Indeed in the context of the day, he did know. Salt cannot be broken down and separated except from water that would cause dilution but this isn’t necessarily something you can “toss out and trample by men.. Yet there was in a sense a way salt could “lose its saltiness.” The Dead Sea is very mineral rich and also has so much salt one can literally sit in the water. The problem was that
other minerals could adhere to salt molecules–nasty ones like boron, magnesium and bromides. When salt became overloaded with other minerals, the salt with its attachments became useless and worthy of being “tossed out”and “trampled by men.” It was an illustration that an entire crowd of people could relate to as they needed good salt to preserve their food.
But we must be careful to not get so caught up in the science that we lose Jesus’ point. If salt loses its ability to be useful because it has adhered to other things, it is worthless. There is a warning in this text.
So what does this all mean? There are seemingly endless applications. One needs to read the Scripture more or be careful of attachments or not get diluted by the world. All good. What we do know Jesus was saying that salt had a capacity to have a form that was not useful if it became compromised. In the context of pressure, persecution and just life in general, this is readily understandable. Something that is compromised is almost never beneficial, be it a trust, a relationship, or one’s life in Christ.