By Jennifer Barten
My mom is obsessed with salt and by obsessed, I mean obsessed! She buys more salt in a year, than I think I will in a lifetime. Before she takes a bite of anything, she adds extra salt to it. Somehow, she heard that they didn’t allow salt in nursing homes. Most 50-something-year olds wouldn’t be phased or bothered by this. Not my mother. She informed me that I will sneak the little salt packets into her nursing room and hide them around the room. She then told me if I didn’t do this, I would be out of the will.
Apparently, my mom isn’t the one that is on to something, thinking that salt goes with everything. Anytime you sit down at a restaurant salt can quickly be found, ready to add to any dish and is the number one food enhancer in the world. Over 1 quarter of a billion pounds of salt are produced each year for people to use in their dishes.
Today salt is mainly used in our everyday lives as a food enhancer, but it used to be used as so much more and because of that, it is no surprise that Paul, who wrote what Mark just read, found it important to say that every conversation needs to be seasoned with salt.
In Paul’s time, salt served primary as a preservative, keeping meat from spoiling. It was valuable enough to be used as a form of currency and then, like now, it changed the flavor of whatever it was added to. When you look at it that way, Paul’s use of this metaphor has more than one meaning. A believer’s words are to preserve the message of Christ, helping it effectively reach as many people as possible. In order to do that, not only do Christians have to know the message but we also need to be able to add value to the conversation; our words should be uplifting or helpful.
As Christians, we are to serve others and one way to do that is to bring out the best in them. Salt doesn’t serve itself; it serves the foods it’s sprinkled upon.
We are supposed to do the same. We are supposed to help others by being flavor that brings out the best in them. As believers, we aren’t supposed to be bland and tasteless, we are supposed to bring out others sweetness, boldness and great attitudes.
This doesn’t just mean that we are supposed to be nice but it also means we are to be an inspiration, full of joy and someone that others want to be around. As Christians we shouldn’t be the most bland people in the room, but the most flavorful, bringing out the best in everyone.
Karen Ehman, writer of the 40-day challenge book Zip It, reminds everyone on that adding salt sweet items is just as important as other foods.
On day 15 she writes “When we are told our speech should be seasoned with salt, perhaps it means we should ask ourselves if we are bringing our sweetness in both our choice of words and in our conversation with others. We must make sure that we are bringing out the sweetness by sprinkling in the flavor of Christ and not adding in a bland or bad flavor, that could hurt others.”
When thinking of how our speech can affect others, I think of Karen Carpenter’s story. Karen was a part of the ‘70’s rock duo ‘The Carpenters.” Karen and her brother were the two leads in the band, until Karen died unexpectedly of heart failure at the age of 32. While the heart failure was unexpected, her death wasn’t. When she died she was 5”4 and weighed less than 110 pounds. After a magazine reviewer called Karen “Richard’s chubby sister” Karen struggled with her weight to the point of becoming anorexic. Those three words brought Karen to her death.
While we would love to judge that reviewer for saying that because he or she should have known better, our speech is not naturally gracious. We all find ourselves in the midst of gossiping with friends, saying mean or unnecessary things when we are upset and try to bully others with our words into thinking our way. Even after we become Christians we can still totally misuse our tongues.
Our tongues and our speech give us away in a lot of different ways. How much we speech positively to and about others, shows if we are a true Christian, living as God would want us to.
As the saying goes: “The cleverest person is one who never speaks. A wise man rarely speaks, but a foolish man is always talkative.” The more we talk, the more we prove we are foolish, because we expose ourselves more and sell ourselves cheaply. On the night that the Lord Jesus was betrayed, Peter was put on the spot. A servant girl came to him and said, “You also were with Jesus the Galilean,” but Peter denied it before all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about!” This happened a second and then then a third time, some came to him and said, “Surely you also are one of them, for your speech also makes it clear that you are.” I wonder if when Peter denied it the third time after that accusation, if he tried speaking with an accent to cover who he was. Just like when Peter spoke to the servant and everyone knew where he came from, we’ve all heard an Azzie, Texan and Englishman speak and knew where they came from.
In a similar way, if you do not speak one word, no one will know how much you have experienced and gained Christ and what the measure of Christ is within you, but if speak for only five minutes, people will know.
In James 3:9, James complained about how some Christians used their speech to curse others.
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father,
and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness.
Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.
My brothers, this should not be.
Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring?
My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs?
Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”
In today’s reading and in Ephesians, Paul writes that our words should be full of grace. In Ephesians 4:29 Paul goes as far to say that we cannot let any unwholesome speech come out of our mouths. We must build each other up and listen in order to help others. Paul said only once we have accomplished these things are we living in God’s grace.
We’ve all had conversations with a friend, coworker or church member that we have walked and away and felt good after because of the kind words they said. We have all also had the opposite happen where we walk away after a conversation feeling frustrated, annoyed or mad because the person didn’t say such nice things. It doesn’t matter if they did it on purpose or on accident. The feelings are there and we have to deal with them. Sometimes one conversation has changed our views on a person. We have the ability to make people feel good or bad about themselves and us.
With God’s grace we should want to make people feel good about themselves and us. God’s grace has changed us. We are now to be people who are a blessing to others. We need to realize this and change our speech.
According to Pope Francis the easiest way for the devil to work in us, is through our speech. The Pope said it’s easiest for the devil to work in us that way because we often speak without thinking and our words can cut through others quickly.
Cindy McArther, religious writer, added on what the Pope was saying when she said that when speaking to unbelievers Christians have said things to make it easy for unbelievers to think there is no difference between themselves and Christians. The devil has had Christians say things without thinking that are mean and not Godly, making the devils work easy.
I know I fell into this trap often at the college. Think back to when you were raising one, two or even three 18-20 year olds and how frustrated you got. Now imagine living with 356 of them. I often was lacking on sleep, eating little and putting up with a lot of attitude. My mouth got the better of me on many occasions and I ruined relationships with more than one student because of the harsh things I said.
God wants us to be holy mouthpieces for Him – people who heal and help with our words. But Satan’s words come out more often than many of us would like to admit, especially during times when we are not getting along, lacking sleep or in difficult situations. A few critical words here, a few complaints there, some profanity mixed in with a little gossip on the side and we have given him permission to make us people who tear others apart and sound no different, and sometimes worse, than unbelievers. Satan knows we can cause much damage with our mouths if we do not bring them under God’s control.
Over the next few months, we are going to be at the church alone. We are going to have a gap where Steve has been. He was the one we went to when we had issues, he built us up when needed and told us when we needed to be put in check. We now have to do that for each other.
We are going to have to build each other up and be there for one another. The enemy of God, however, hates this. He would do everything he can to damage our church family. Since starting Vivid Vision, many of us on the team have noticed Satan trying to work against the church, which has been reassuring that we are doing good things that makes Satan mad but we are going to have to be sure that we continue to push him away. The easiest way for Satan to stop our amazing momentum that we have going is through careless speech. This is why in the last chapter of Colossians, the apostle Paul points out this one matter saying that our conversation, speech, and words must be always filled with grace and seasoned with salt.
In the book of Philippians two ladies are mentioned by name in Paul’s letter to the town. He tells them point blank to stop bickering and arguing and ask other members of the church to help them when needed. In the book of Ecclesiastes, King Solomon writes that no one will be remembered for more than three generations. I think worse that not being remembered after three generations, would be being remembered forever and written about in the Bible or elsewhere because you were fighting with someone and let the devil take control of your mouth.
In order for us to live life as God intended us to, we must be willing to watch our speech and make sure that we are speaking in God’s grace. In order to this, speech expert Jonah Berger said before speaking we must ask ourselves: is what we are going to say necessary, fair and kind.
Before I end today, let me leave you with this poem by Paul Gilbert:
You are writing the gospel for others to see, a chapter a day,
By the things you do and the words you say,
Others will read what you write weather faulty or true,
Say, what is the gospel today according to you?