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Luke Study #145 – No Longer Good

The Gospel Of Luke

Luke 14:34-35 (CEV)

34 Salt is good, but if it no longer tastes like salt, how can it be made to taste salty again? 35 It is no longer good for the soil or even for the manure pile. People simply throw it out. If you have ears, pay attention!

No Longer Good

We don’t depend on salt anymore the way that people in ancient times did. We use it lots – in bacon, potato chips, fries and gravy, to name a few – but that doesn’t quite give us the sense of it’s importance to Jesus’ original audience.

Historically, salt had many uses. First and foremost, salt is a compound that we humans need to survive. Without it, we can’t move water across the cell wall, which means that we could drink as much water as we wanted, and still end up dehydrated!

More than just its importance to our survival, salt was critical to the possibility of food preservation and was used extensively to treat illness and throughout various cultures in their religious practices.

Because of it’s vital importance, producing, shipping and selling salt became a highly controlled process. Huge taxes of up to 140% were placed on salt production, and salt was so highly valued that it was often sold in exchange for slaves or used as a means of paying employees or the members of the military.

Salt was even used as one of the earliest forms of biological warfare, with armies salting the earth to prevent their enemies from being able to easily grow crops in the coming years.

So many reasons for salt, then, must have come to mind for those who heard Jesus’ initial words. And they would have all had that immediate, gut-wrenching sense of loss when Jesus talked about salt losing its saltiness. It would be kind of like accidentally leaving out a huge stack of those new plastic $50 bills in your car on a -40oC day and realizing that they had simply shattered into pieces so small that the bank would never replace them for you. A vast resource of wealth and potential had simply been turned to garbage.

So what’s Jesus on about? Why is Luke writing this parable for us? And why does he put it here?

It comes right on the heels of Tuesday’s study about counting the cost, so I think that it’s probably safe to say that the two ideas are connected.

Google tells me that sodium chloride (salt) can lose its flavor simply by being exposed to moisture in the form of condensation or rainwater. This dissolves and removes the sodium chloride, which in turn makes it lose its salty taste, and with it all of its value.

Exposure to moisture can happen pretty easily. Think about how quickly the inside of your tent can get wet simply from the condensation from your own breathing overnight. To prevent the salt from losing its saltiness, then, it needs to be stored carefully in a safe, dry place.

And maybe this is where we start to see the connections for us today. Because I think it’s possible that Jesus is warning us that it’s not some big, calamitous thing that’s going to show up and cause us to lose our impact in the Kingdom. He doesn’t warn us about rulers or wars or judgments or laws. Jesus doesn’t warn us against acts seen as religiously impure or about the prostitution temples of the Romans. These don’t seem to be the thing that’s going to catch us up or stop us in our tracks.

No, instead Jesus warns us about an everyday item – salt – and about that salt becoming ineffective because of another everyday occurrence – moisture.

It’s just possible that my ability to participate in this Kingdom process has less to do with what the name of my country’s leader is, what wars my country is involved in, what laws my country passes, or how my country spends its money than I was ever given to believe.

On the flip side, it’s just possible that if I forget that Kingdom = love (the way sodium chloride = one sodium + one chlorine ion) that everything else will fall apart.

And what I hear Jesus saying in this is that if I forget who I am – if I forget what the fundamental mission of Jesus is (to bring the Kingdom forward in ever-increasing measure through those who follow him) – than I’m not going to be worth much of anything anymore.Journal Questions:

  1. What are some examples of ways you’ve seen Christians encouraged to take sides on issues?
  2. How often have those arguments left you feeling like you should be very afraid – that bad things will happen if you don’t get this right?
  3. How often have those arguments compelled you to treat people in a more loving, more compassionate, more whole way?
  4. Do you ever feel pulled away from the central message of the gospel – to love – by these everyday arguments?
  5. What would it look like to make choices about how you cared for yourself so that you would be more able to “stay salty”?

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