Salt residue marred the smooth, shiny concrete flooring. Fine powder formed semi-transparent, circular eddies and ripples that lined and colored the straight gray aisles. The store manager was not happy. Accustomed to a shiny and unremarkable surface resembling a lengthy gray walkway of polished stone, the chalk-colored, swirling designs were an unwelcome distraction.
The earlier heavy snow had resulted in ample ice melt being sprinkled on the sidewalks, and as salt clumps clung to the incoming shoe soles, the salt was generously re-distributed throughout the inside of the store. Add to this a need for the surfaces to be hand-mopped, and a clue to the discolorations was discovered: an increased but undetected salt-water concentration had built up in the mop water, resulting in the visible pale etchings as the floor completely dried.
Even as I observed the swirled edgings, I felt like the Lord used that image to impress me with the importance of leaving rings of spiritually salty residue wherever our interactions took us.
In Matthew 5, Jesus moved from calling those who were gentle, merciful, pure in heart, and persecuted for His sake as “blessed” into stating, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.” (Matt. 5:13, NASB) The Passion Translation reads, “Your lives are like salt among the people. But if you, like salt, become bland, how can your ‘saltiness’ be restored? Flavorless salt is good for nothing and will be thrown out…”
Becoming bland. Not recommended. Becoming flavorless. Even worse.
A short but interesting bit of Scripture from 2 Kings came to my mind as I thought about the admonition not to lose one’s saltiness. In 2 Kings 2, Elisha has succeeded Elijah, but the “sons of prophets who were at Jericho” are skeptical of his power and/or anointing. After sending out a large search party to try and locate the missing Elijah, they return empty-handed and reluctantly bring Elisha the problem troubling them: “‘Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.'” Elisha’s unlikely response was to instruct them, “‘Bring me a jar, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, ‘Thus says the Lord, “I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.”‘ (2 Kings 2:19-22, NASB) And, indeed, it was as Elisha spoke.
God could have used any substance as a visual aid while He supernaturally cleansed the water — why salt? The online resource torahclass.com states, “Why would Elisha do it? Trust. After Elisha threw the salt into the water, ‘it became wholesome.’ How would the people know it was good enough to drink? They would have to trust their G-d enough to dip their hand into the water and draw it to their lips. Pouring salt must have seemed like a crazy thing to do to them. But when it comes to walking with our G-d, isn’t this what it takes — going against the way we think to do what He tells us to do?”*
Paul taught those in Ephesus, “We are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10, NASB) The Passion Translation substitutes the phrase, “His poetry” for “His workmanship.”
Good works — actions, counsel, assistance, prayer, support, to name just a few — are pre-authorized, pre-approved, and pre-empowered for us to walk in, to instigate and carry out. As I reflect on Paul’s words, I find myself being filled with great encouragement and a sense of purpose, a sense of touching others with His grace. Is it possible that what we often offer or receive as a random act of kindness…isn’t so random, after all? And how amazing it is to think of His Spirit, through us, being released as His poetry, spoken lovingly to a world that often communicates through accusation, slang, profanity.
Whether we view ourselves as a practical expression of “workmanship” or a beautiful verse of poetry, I believe we have a deep desire — an expression of His desire, really — to leave a salty residue, a tangible impact that can be felt or recognized long after we have left the scene. I John 1:1 said of Jesus, “What we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life.” Of course we are not the Word of Life — but we are its representatives.
Paul’s teaching to the Ephesians isn’t “for someone else.” Each of our lives has been divinely set apart to be “like salt among the people.” Yes, among the people…when the spring that is feeding their lives is producing various forms of death or unfruitfulness. Among the people…when lives are thrown into apparent ruin or kindness has become a distant land due to unforeseen events. Among the people…with our speech consistently flowing “with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person.” (Col. 4:6)
There it is, again — the concept of practical, living poetry. The integrity of solid workmanship. And in all those cases (and far beyond), it is that salt, our salt, His salt in us — Christ in you, the hope of glory — and the residue from that salt that can point and encourage others towards the direction of discovering life (not death) and walking in fruitfulness (not futility).