“They’re the salt of the earth,” we often say of people we hold in high regard. Why?
What’s the origin of this complimentary comment?
Our Lord called His disciples the salt of the earth (Matthew 5:13) because salt preserves and purifies. He wanted them to know they were responsible for preserving certain values and exerting a purifying influence on others. So are we! And none of these divinely ordered obligations can be fulfilled through non-involvement.
Most are familiar with the famous quote: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good people do nothing.” Still, we’re too often silent about issues of decency, honesty and the value of life. Then we wonder why evil triumphs and standards fall.
Morality is especially in danger of being compromised when things are going well for us. It’s easy to let down barriers for the sake of profit or pleasure when these have become more important than doing right.
Cotton Mather, the influential eighteenth century Congregational minister and writer, said: “Religion brought forth prosperity and the daughter destroyed the mother.” He believed the prosperity of his time was the result of qualities in people that had been born of faith: honesty, thrift, integrity, willingness to work and the discipline to defer gratification. But he feared the affluence that flowed from these valuable characteristics would undermine spiritual values and contribute to moral decline. Mather’s insight ought to be a wake-up call for us all. When life is moving smoothly, we’re more likely to fall.
Mention “salt of the earth” people and my thoughts often move to a farmer named John. During my growing up years, I was impressed by how straight John could plow.
Passing one of John’s fields gave insight into his character. He lived like he plowed: straight as an arrow; a fact his neighbors all knew well.
A few in our community were surprised when John decided to quit farming and head for seminary to prepare for the ministry; not an easy undertaking for one with a family to support. Most, however, saw John’s move from plowing to preaching as something to be expected. He had been influencing people for God in his home area and now his preserving of values and purifying of lives through living and sharing his faith would extend to other places.
Dr. Joseph Stowell, the president Cornerstone University, once wrote approvingly of a man named Larry, a member of one of his former churches, who left a lasting impression on him.
Stowell says he was moved by the example of Larry walking the streets of Detroit, during the riots of the sixties, ministering to those who were injured. He adds that he’s never forgotten what a friend of Larry said in trying to express his feelings about losing this good man:
“It hurts so much because the world has lost a righteous man, and that is no small thing.”
During this precarious period of worldwide terrorism, falling morals and compromising convictions, we need more “salt of the earth” people who, by their faith and prayers, can bring the protection and blessing of God to their nation (Proverbs 14:34).
And that’s no small need.