Matthew 5:7-16

Because school resumes this week, I want to ask you a simple, but controversial question: Should a Christian teacher try to influence students for Christ? Is it appropriate for a public teacher to speak up and say, "I believe the Bible's account of creation." Or, "As a Christian I believe marriage is a sacred institution between a man and a woman." Should the teacher ever put a Bible on the desk or invite a student to church? Or should Christian teachers just keep their beliefs to themselves?

All of you should be asking that question about your sphere of influence. Is your faith in Christ a private matter, for church only, or does it impact your relationships at work and in the community? If you try to share your faith, what is the most effective way to do it?

Most non-Christians would say you should keep your faith to yourself. "Don't try to impose your values on me." "Keep religion out of the public arena", they say.

But listen to what Jesus said about the Christian's relationship to the world in the Sermon on the Mount. "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men" (Matthew 5:13).

Salt has a number of uses. It adds taste to food, melts ice, creates thirst. But in the first century salt was used primarily as a preservative. Jesus' audience didn't have refrigeration — when they butchered or caught fish they packed the meat in salt to preserve it. You can still buy country hams that are salt-cured.

When Jesus said that you are the salt of the earth, He acknowledged that decay is inevitable in a fallen world. Left alone, culture will always deteriorate, without Christ the world will putrefy. "Evil men will go from bad to worse," the Bible says. Jesus was saying that your job is to preserve truth and conserve Godly values in society. You permeate the world and help maintain a wholesomeness in the culture.

Jesus said that if salt loses its saltiness it's no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and tromped on like sand in a path. Technically, Sodium Chloride cannot lose its saltiness, but the salt mined from the Dead Sea was so polluted with other minerals that it lost its preserving abilities. If a Christian becomes polluted by the sin and philosophy of the world we lose our preserving ability. Jesus was saying, "If there is nothing distinctive about you and you don't preserve God's truth, you've lost your value to me.

Becky Manley Pippert wrote a book that became a best-seller, Out of the Saltshaker. Her premise is that Christians aren't to remain comfortably in church and associate only with each other. Then we're of no value to the world. Salt permeates the meat to preserve it. Salt works quietly, often unnoticed. But it serves its primary purpose when it's out of the container. The church is most needed in the world, not in the church building.

A grade school teacher from this church refuses to be intimidated by the threats not to say anything about Jesus in the classroom, so every Christmas she asks her students what Christmas means to them. She encourages the answers and the students tell the entire Christmas story for her. She does the same at Easter. That's being salt in the world of education.

I went to my doctor the other day for an annual check up. The nurse took me to a private room and said, "Wait here; the doctor will be right with you." There I sat with nothing to do. There were several books on the table. I leafed through one about health and exercise that contained an unashamed Christian testimony. That doctor is being salt in the medical community.