Mark 9:50, “Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”
The English word for “salary” comes from the word salarium, and its root sal means “salt.” So, the amount of work we produce in a given amount of time determines if we are worth our salt. With the amount of time you’ve spent on this earth so far, are you worth your salt?
In my generation (the Millennial generation), there seems to be equal rights activists for practically everything. If there were a zombie apocalypse, I’m certain there would be people in my generation fighting for zombie equal rights and zombie discrimination laws. We’re more concerned about our rights than those of the poor and persecuted, and we complain about our “unfair” situations more than those who are less fortunate than we are. Our main product is sin, so we are certainly worth our salt!
The wages of our sin is death (Romans 6:23), but pay attention to the second clause, “but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Our earning wages in our sin may be death, but Jesus lifts that curse off us and gives us a new saltiness. If you recall my blog, Salt of the Earth, I went over three primary functions of our saltiness as Christians: We enhance the faith of believers and unbelievers, we sting them with the Law but heal them with the Gospel, and we preserve the faith of fellow believers as well as our own. In Christ, the worth of our salt is no longer sin, but grace.
So, as a Christian, are you worth your salt? The answer is yes. We are called to produce the fruits of the Spirit and to live as Jesus has taught us to live, but being simultaneously saint and sinner, we still sin and fail. Yet Jesus is not so much concerned about our works as He is with our faith. Works don’t create faith; faith produces good works. That’s the point St. James was getting at in the second chapter of his epistle. We may fail every now and then, but we are still worth our salt because although we are not worthy, Jesus sees us as worthy not in any sort of worthiness we merit, but through the eyes of grace that is impartial to good works.
We are not worth our salt, however, when we live unrepentantly, for we are called to “bear fruits in keeping with repentance” (Luke 3:8), which means our actions must reflect the reality of our forgiveness. The Greek word for “repent” is μετανοέω (metanoéo), which literally means to “have a serious change of mind and heart about a previous point of view or course of behavior” (Danker, 230). This is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew word for repent, עַזָב (azav), which literally means “to forsake.” While repentance certainly results in the undeserving forgiveness of sins, it is also the forsaking—the turning away from—the sin for which you were just forgiven. This is what John the Baptiser meant when he said to bear the fruits of repentance.
Paul teaches that although we are forgiven, it is precisely because of this that we have no excuse to continue sinning so that grace may abound (Romans 6:1-4). In other words, just because we are justified in Christ it does not mean we are free to live in any sinful lifestyle and just repent while continuing to live in sin. For example, if I continue to engage in premarital sex although I know it’s a sin and continue to live in that sinful lifestyle while I repent whenever I do it, I am not living the life God intends for me through Christ. Our justification in Christ does not give us freedom to live in sin; it gives us freedom to live apart from sin. What’s the point in repenting if we just return to the sin that confines us? When we fall into the same sin again and again, we choose that path and thereby reject the grace of Jesus.
Do not confuse this with works righteousness. I am not saying that if you forsake your sin, you are worth your salt because you’ve earned it by your own ability. What I am saying is that we are able to forsake our sin through the power of the Holy Spirit given through Christ who thus enables us to be worth our salt because of what He’s done for us, not because of what we’ve done. By bearing the fruits in keeping with repentance, we are worth our salt in Christ Jesus our Lord. What does this mean? It is simply the Christian living in response to being forgiven. In fact, you’re probably already doing it.
I’ll use my own life as an example. In my personal faith, I read my Bible, witness whenever the opportunity comes, use my gifts to give God glory (poetry, this blog, music performance and composition, etc.), fellowship with other Christians, I pray for forgiveness rather frequently, I go to church to receive the sacraments that impart forgiveness, and God enables me to live out that forgiveness by forsaking my sins. Basically, I live like any other devout Christian. I fail plenty of times, but I try not to focus on the failure; that is our tendency. Even though I’m a devout Christian, I still struggle with sin. As a recovering pornography addict, sometimes I relapse. Instead of using the grace of Christ as an excuse to continue engaging in pornography, Christ gives me His grace for my justification in spite of my filth while He works in me to overcome this sin. I could say, “I’m forgiven in Christ anyway, so I’m just going to keep using pornography.” But that would be an improper response to my baptism, which Paul covers in Romans 6. Instead, Christ has revealed my sinfulness to me with the Law and has given me His grace in the Gospel to not only be forgiven, but also help me overcome this sin.
I am worth my salt because not only has Jesus forgiven me, but also because He enables me to bear the fruits in keeping with my repentance by giving me the strength through the Holy Spirit to forsake my sin, and He can do the same for you. Because of Jesus, we are worth our salt.
Danker, Frederick. The Concise Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. Chicago: U of Chicago, 2009.