Back

LESSON 11 - YOU ARE THE SALT (MATTHEW 5:13)

Copr. 1998, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.  All Scripture references are to
the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society,  unless otherwise noted. Quotations
from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes
the teacher uses a blackboard.

INTRODUCTION: The term "salt," when applied to a person, has quite
different meanings.  If you say a person is "the salt of the
earth," you are calling him a good and ordinary person.  On the
other hand, if you say someone has "salty" language, or is a
"salty" person, you suggest he uses crude or salacious language. If
you take what someone says with a "grain of salt," it means that
you do not completely believe that person. Adding a "grain of salt"
means you are adding common sense to the story to interpret it in
a reasonable way.  Let's discover what the Bible means when it
refers to people as being salt!

I. YOU ARE SALT

     A. Turn with me to Matthew 5:13. Read.  Would you rather be
     called "salt" or "gold?"  Would you rather own ten pounds of
     salt or ten pounds of gold?

          1. How valuable is salt? (Not very.)

          2. Is Jesus talking about the value of salt in this
          verse? (Yes.)

          3. In terms of value, what is Jesus saying about us if we
          claim to be salt? (He starts out calling us something
          that has low economic value.  He then says if we lose our
          "saltiness," we have no economic value!)

          4. Is it a compliment for someone to say, "You have low
          value, and you could be completely worthless?"

               a. Why would Jesus say such a thing?

               b. Wouldn't it be better if He had said, "You are
               the gold of the earth." (See, Job 23:10)

               c. Why not follow the Proverbs which says (25:11) "A
               word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in
               settings of silver?"  Now that puts a high value on
               what we say!

     B. When someone says something bad about us, we tend to say,
     "Are you talking about me?" Let's ask that question. Do you
     think Jesus is calling you salt? Or is He talking to someone
     else?

          1. Remember last week we discovered in our study of the
          vineyard parable of Matthew 21:33-41 that it was the
          special ambassadors of God and not the ordinary "vines"
          that suffered persecution?  Remember that we discussed
          that Jesus in Matthew 5:12 says "the prophets who were
          before you" and not "all the faithful who were before
          you" were persecuted? In Matthew 5:11 Jesus changes the
          verb form so that it appears He is speaking specifically
          to His disciples instead of the entire crowd. Do you
          think it is possible that Jesus is just calling His
          special disciples, and not all His followers, "salt?"

          2. As you review in your mind our study of the
          Beatitudes, do they reflect a progression in our
          spiritual life?

               a. If so, do verses 11 and following apply
               especially to those with an "advanced" spiritual
               understanding? (I think there is a very strong
               argument to be made that the Beatitudes are like a
               funnel. They start out on the wide end of the
               funnel by telling us that those who see their need
               of God are blessed (Matthew 5:3-6), then they
               progress to those whose spiritual life has advanced
               to reflect a change in their actions (Matthew 5:7-
               9), then on to those who are on the "front lines"
               of the spiritual battle (the modern day "prophets")
               who are suffering persecution. Those who are
               suffering persecution because of their
               righteousness are at the small end of the funnel in
               terms of numbers of believers.)

          3. If you accept this argument that Jesus is speaking
          about a small number of leaders, can you think of a
          reason why He would want to call them "salt" instead of
          "gold?" (Leaders are more likely to get a "big head."
          More likely to be tempted by pride.  For this reason
          Jesus would compare them with something that is cheap and
          common to help keep them humble.)

               a. For those of you who are troubled by my
               suggestion that perhaps just a small number of
               believers are described as "salt," isn't the fact
               that salt is so common directly at odds with my
               suggestion?

                    (1) However, can you name a single thing that
                    is rare and yet has little value? (I cannot.
                    It may be that Jesus could not use an analogy
                    that would keep them humble and yet be rare.)

II. THE NATURE OF SALT

     A. What is it about salt that you think causes God to use it
     as an analogy here? (What it does for food. What it does for
     wounds.)

          1. What does salt do for wounds? (Hurts! Actually, salt
          in water has been thought to draw out infection. It helps
          to purify.)
 

          2. What does salt do for food? (It improves it. It
          preserves it.)

          3. If I said that you are salt, and you are supposed to
          figure out what you should do based on what you know
          about salting your food, how would you write your job
          description? Let's look at the "where" and "what" of your
          job description.

               a. Where:

                    (1) Would you be a "hermit" and retreat to a
                    cave?

                    (2) Would you mingle?

                    (3) Would you live in a "Christian center?"

                         (a) What happens when you have too much
                         salt in your food?

                         (b) Is there a lesson here?  Or have we
                         extended this analogy too far?

               b. What:

                    (1) Once you "mingled," what would you do to be
                    salty?"

                    (2) Using our analogy, what should you do to
                    "preserve" the world? (The gospel message.)

                    (3) What would do to make the world "taste
                    better?" (The gospel has a refining effect on
                    a person. They act better, and therefore you
                    could say they "taste better.")

     B. Does that fact that salt is seasoning which has to mingle
     to be helpful support or undercut the idea that a believer has
     to be "advanced" to perform the role of salt?

          1. Have you ever seen a potential believer "turned off"
          to God by a poorly thought out witness?

          2. Have you ever seen a potential believer "turned off"
          by bad theology?

          3. On the other hand, is it not the new members who are
          "on fire" and who tend to bring more new people to
          church?

          4. Should a church organize, and train people to become
          "salters?"

               a. Do we call those people "missionaries?"

               b. Should we have "missionaries" to reach our local
               community?

               c. In 1 Corinthians 12:14-21, 27-31 the church is
               compared to a body. Does that affect your thinking
               on whether we should have special people within the
               church who are designated and trained as "salters?"

          5. What about a role for you at your place of work?
          Should you just start "salting" away or should you have
          some training?

               a. Is it possible that you are not sufficiently
               advanced in your Christian walk to be "salt?"

III. TURNING A DEMONIAC INTO SALT

     A. Turn with me to Luke 8:26-28. Read. Assume this happened to
     you.

          1. How do you believe this man looked (aside from being
          naked)? (Wild!)

          2. How would you feel when confronted by a person like
          this? (Scared.)

          3. This man acknowledges the divinity of Christ. Is he a
          believer?

               a. What does that say about what it takes to be a
               "believer?"

          4. When your children were young, did they ever say
          something in public that made you appear to be a child
          beater? ("Daddy, when you going to stop hitting me with
          a sword?" Dad: "We don't own a sword!")

               a. Is the wild man doing that to Jesus here? (v.28:
               "Don't torture me!")

     B. Read vv. 29. What does this suggest is torture for the
     Devil? (For man to refuse to let him into the heart.)

          1. Did the demon torture the man? (Yes! v.29)

          2. Did the demon torture others? (It appears that this
          man was a danger to others.  Otherwise, why would they
          chain him hand and foot?)

     C. Read vv. 30-33. Where did the demons fear they would go?
     (Abyss)

          1. How does it make any sense to kill their new "hosts?"
          (When the Devil takes control of your life, you cannot
          depend on anything making any sense!)

     D. Let's skip down and read vv. 35-37. We started out with you
     telling me that you feared wild-looking people. Now we find
     that the people fear (v.35) a man "dressed and in his right
     mind!" Why?

     E. Read vv. 38-39. What did Jesus tell the man to do? (Be
     salt!)

          1. Did he have "salter" training? (No.)

          2. Had he gone through the stages described in the
          Beatitudes? (No.)

          3. Does this "blow up" the theory that we have to be
          experienced to be "salt?" (There is a way to reconcile
          this with our earlier discussion. The healed demoniac was
          only telling what he knew: "How much God had done for
          him." (v.39) While I think it is helpful for a church to
          organize along the talents and gifts of the members, and
          thus have special "soul winners," we can all be "salt" if
          we just stick to telling others what God has done for us.
          The witnesses that do harm are those that go beyond that
          into areas in which they are not prepared or do not have
          the necessary spiritual gift.)

IV. NEXT WEEK: "YOU ARE THE LIGHT."  Study!

SUMMER BREAK UPDATE: A little while ago I mentioned that the lesson
outline would be suspended for a few weeks this summer. It is my
hope to get a lesson outline to you for next week.  However, the
lessons will probably be suspended until July 23, 1998 (You can
expect a new posting on the web site on that day.)  Will see you
again then! Study the Bible in the meantime!