Last week at prayer, Pastor John posed a question to us: How does salt lose its saltiness? The question leads to more questions. Is the reference literal or is it figurative? Coming from a scientific background, I logically thought this thing through.
The first question that must be addressed is this. What is the chemical composition of the salt? Is it table salt, NaCl? For the sake of this argument, we’ll assume that Jesus is speaking of table salt. When NaCl is combined with water, it is a mixture, not another compound. No discernible chemical reaction occurs. The salt particles enjoy the extra space of not being in crystal form, but the vast majority of the salt molecules don’t mingle with the water–ie share electrons.
The only way for salt to lose its saltiness, from a chemical perspective, is for a chemical reaction to occur. NaCl is a very stable substance. The chemical bond is very tight. You see, sodium and chlorine are happy to become one and share their one electron. Things work out really well for them…they are like the happily married couple that just loves to be married, not matter what hits the fan.
NaCl is used for many purposes. It is used to add flavor to food; it is used to draw out the water in foods; it is used to cure food for longevity; it is used to create traction on icy roads. (Calcium chloride is actually used for this purpose more, but if you don’t have any of that sitting around, you can use table salt to create traction on your front step on a snowy day.) I believe that salt was even used for antiseptic purposes.
So, for salt to lost is pungent saltiness, or change its physical composition, it would have to be diluted in water because it is non-reactive in its crystalline form. Or electricity would have to be introduce to force the sodium chloride into its ionic components thereby changing its chemcial composition.
So, for the Christian, for the salt of the earth, to lose his degree of saltiness, the Gospel would have to diluted in his life. This person is the complacent Christian, the person who does not protect the Truth of the gospel in his life from the rainfall of other ideas and ideologies–Buddhism, Islam, American culture. This person mixes the Truth with a myriad of other ideologies.
Or perhaps this Christian is a skeptic. You know, the hair splitting Christian. They say that they believe in Jesus, but they don’t really want their lives to be changed. “I know that the Bible says that premarital sex is not acceptable, but does that pertain to 2007?” “I know that the Bible says that I should not lie. Does that mean on my taxes too?” Skepticism is an electric shock to the Truth contained in the gospel. Instead of planting faith the size of a mustard seed, it creates doubt that is as wide as the Grand Canyon.
Thereby I assert that the question that the Christian, the Christ follower must ask is not necessarily, “How does salt lose its saltiness?” Rather the question should be, “How then can I maintain my saltiness?”