What Did Jesus Mean By “You Are the Salt of the Earth”?

In Matthew 5:13, Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth." Learn more about the meaning of this phrase and why it's important today for Christians.

Christianity.com Editorial Staff
What Did Jesus Mean By “You Are the Salt of the Earth”?

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.” 
Matthew 5:13

Salt of the Earth Meaning

According to Dictionary.com, salt of the earth means “an individual or group considered as representative of the best or noblest elements of society.”

John Gill's Exposition of the Bible explained this biblical phrase as the following:

“You are the salt of the earth”

This is to be understood of the disciples and apostles of Christ; who might be compared to "salt", because of the savory doctrines they preached; as all such are, which are agreeable to the Scriptures, and are of the evangelic kind, which is full of Christ, serve to exalt him, and to magnify the grace of God; and are suitable to the experiences of the saints, and are according to godliness, and tend to promote it: also because of their savory lives and conversations; whereby they recommended and gave sanction to the doctrines they preached, were examples to the saints, and checks upon wicked men. These were the salt "of the earth"; that is, of the inhabitants of the earth, not of the land of Judea only, where they first lived and preached, but of the whole world, into which they were afterward sent to preach the Gospel.

Matthew 5 - Salt and Light

"You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:13-16

Salt is used as a preservative to save meat and food from spoiling as Jesus saves our souls from damnation and separation from God for sinning and falling from grace.

Light shines outwards and brings visibility just as spreading the gospel will allow others to see the truth of Jesus and salvation by faith.  

Why Did Jesus Say “You are the Salt of the Earth”?

According to biblestudy.org: The unusual thing about salt is that although it is vital to life and good health on planet earth, too much of it can be deadly. Blood, sweat, and tears have this mineral in them. The significance of this substance in civilization goes back many millennia.

Jesus, during His memorable Sermon on the Mount, declared that believers were the "salt of the earth" and advised that it was possible for them to lose their flavor. If believers lost their "flavor," they would be of no benefit to others. They would then only be deserving of being "thrown out and trampled upon by men" (Matthew 5:13).

Recognize that for many years salt was used as an instrument to reduce the corruption of meat and other foods so that they could be edible for a longer period. Christians who obey God and do his will serve as a preservative of the human race and the earth by slowing down the moral and spiritual decay of the world around them.

Christians, as the salt of the earth Jesus spoke about, need to live as pure a life as possible so that they can maximize their ability to "flavor" or bless others through their good works. When true believers mix into themselves things like false doctrines, they lose their purity and their originally intended goal. This will eventually lead to them becoming worthless and hollow (see Mark 7:7-9)

Bible Verses about Salt

Colossians 4:6 - Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.

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.”

Leviticus 2:13 - You shall season all your grain offerings with salt. You shall not let the salt of the covenant with your God be missing from your grain offering; with all your offerings you shall offer salt.

Luke 14:34-35 - “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

Numbers 18:19 - All the holy contributions that the people of Israel present to the Lord I give to you, and to your sons and daughters with you, as a perpetual due. It is a covenant of salt forever before the Lord for you and for your offspring with you.”

Mark 9:49 - For everyone will be salted with fire.

Genesis 19:26 - But Lot's wife, behind him, looked back, and she became a pillar of salt.

2 Kings 2:20-22 - He said, “Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. Then he went to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the Lord, I have healed this water; from now on neither death nor miscarriage shall come from it.” So the water has been healed to this day, according to the word that Elisha spoke.


Originally published December 19, 2019.