Humble, Salt-of-the-Earth

February 5, 2017

Humble, Salt-of-the-Earth

Matthew 5:13-16

 “You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its saltiness, how will it become salty again? It’s good for nothing except to be thrown away and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city on top of a hill can’t be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on top of a lampstand, and it shines on all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in heaven.

Introduction to the text:

We’re continuing our series #adulting. How do we start to feel like real adults? Paul’s first letter to the baby Christians in Corinth is one way to understand what it means to be mature in Christ – to be a grown-up follower of Jesus.

Continue to listen for the Word of God for you.

1 Corinthians 2:1-13            

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom. I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified. I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking. My message and my preaching weren’t presented with convincing wise words but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. I did this so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God.

What we say is wisdom to people who are mature. It isn’t a wisdom that comes from the present day or from today’s leaders who are being reduced to nothing. We talk about God’s wisdom, which has been hidden as a secret. God determined this wisdom in advance, before time began, for our glory. It is a wisdom that none of the present-day rulers have understood, because if they did understand it, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory!

But this is precisely what is written: God has prepared things for those who love him that no eye has seen, or ear has heard, or that haven’t crossed the mind of any human being. God has revealed these things to us through the Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, including the depths of God. Who knows a person’s depths except their own spirit that lives in them? In the same way, no one has known the depths of God except God’s Spirit. We haven’t received the world’s spirit but God’s Spirit so that we can know the things given to us by God. These are the things we are talking about—not with words taught by human wisdom but with words taught by the Spirit—we are interpreting spiritual things to spiritual people.

* * * * *

So I learned a new word this week at Bible study. “Salty.” I thought I knew what that word meant, but no, I am old and out of touch. Being “salty,” it turns out, has nothing to do with salt-and-pepper shakers. It doesn’t have to do with being a salty dog, which is what an old sailor is called. It doesn’t even have to do with using off-color language, which is what I thought the slang meant. No, I learned that being “salty” means something else all together…

According to Urban Dictionary, “salty” is when you’re “angry, agitated, … upset,” or even bitter because of “being made fun of or embarrassed.” It can apply to someone “who feels out of place or is feeling attacked.”

As my online source says, oftentimes saltiness stems from accepting your mistake or downfall in a situation, but resenting it nonetheless…

Resentment, agitation, irritation… because of some humiliation or embarrassment. That’s what being salty means. Who knew? I mean besides Trip?

But as blogger Mehak Anwar writes, of course, while being salty every now and then is totally natural (if not expected), living salty may not be the best for you, your friends, your family, or for everyone else in your community. [i]

Yep! Amen to that!

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus said. But that’s not the same as being salty. In fact, I would submit, it’s just the opposite. One of the challenges of “adulting” is learning how to be the salt of the earth instead of giving in to being salty.

Make sense?

So let’s look at how Paul pulls that off as he writes to the people in the church in Corinth.

Paul had every reason to feel salty. He put his heart and soul into starting that new church. He taught them about Jesus, treated them like they were his own children, doted on them. But instead of growing up, they were acting childish, fighting among themselves, choosing sides… They even started following other teachers, and treating him as if he were a fool, because Paul preached Christ crucified.

Paul could have felt rejected. He could have felt humiliated. He could have written them off. But he didn’t. Instead, he claimed that “foolishness” almost as a point of pride, if that makes any sense.  He writes, “I stood in front of you with weakness, fear, and a lot of shaking….” “I did that on purpose!” he says, “so that your faith might not depend on the wisdom of people but on the power of God.”

Here’s my take-away from reading Paul. His ego wasn’t caught up in being right. He wasn’t fighting for his personal pride. He wasn’t full of himself, wasn’t spouting off with braggadocio or swagger. He didn’t take slights personally, let alone try to retaliate. If he boasted, he boasted in the Lord. If he was going to fight for anything, it was the truth of the Gospel, not his own self-importance.

In other words, he practiced humility.

And, it turns out, humility is the key to avoiding humiliation.  

Now, there’s a big difference between humility and humiliation, right?

Humiliation comes from the outside; humility comes from the inside.

Humiliation is something someone tries to do to you; humility is the attitude you choose.

Humiliation is about embarrassment and feeling like an outsider; humility is about noticing others and how they feel.

Humiliation comes from worrying about what others think of you; humility is concern for how you treat others.

Humiliation is about feeling salty; humility is being the salt of the earth.

If you don’t have your ego on the line, it’s really hard for someone to destroy it. If you’re not up on your own pedestal, ain’t nobody going to be able to knock you down.

“We preach Christ crucified,” Paul wrote. To all the world, the cross looked like humiliation. But Christ humbled himself, even to the point of death, death on a cross. [Phil. 2:8]

Not humiliation; humility.

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus said. No need or reason to get salty.

The little church I served before coming here was full of people who were the salt of the earth. They were everyday folks, unpretentious, hard-working and humble. They could have carried a chip on their shoulders over people who had more than they did, who caught more breaks in life, but they didn’t. .

Now, I’ll admit, they were a little suspicious of me when I came to be their pastor - I came from a big church in the rich part of town, and they weren’t sure how I would see them. They were afraid that I would look down at them, I suppose, or try to make them something they weren’t. But honestly? It was so relaxing to work with people who weren’t trying to be “all that.” It was a relief! They didn’t really care what other people thought. And that gave us so much freedom just to be the church.

“You are the salt of the earth,” Jesus tells his disciples. He didn’t say, “Go be salt,” or “strive to be the salt of the earth,” or “if you follow me you will be the salt of the earth.” He said, “You are the salt of the earth.”

And then he said, “don’t squander it. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t lose what you are, and what you have. Don’t waste it trying to be something else.”

Because people who are salt of the earth? They are the light of the world. They are hope in the darkness. They are a gift from God. They help us see the way things are without judgment, without fear, without comparison or humiliation.

“Adulting” doesn’t mean being superior – or inferior, for that matter. Maturity in Christ means being grounded and rooted so deeply in the love of God that we don’t need to be haughty or arrogant or proud.

We don’t have to be “something” in order to be someone.

We just need to be followers of Jesus, children of God - salt of the earth, Jesus said.

Just like the one who humbled himself, even to death on a cross.

Rev. Karen Chakoian