There are theories, for sure. Salt is a flavor additive. Perhaps Jesus was saying that we are the flavor of the earth. We make this place less bland. Or if you dare go so far, we spice this world up. That could be, I guess, but I don't think it really fits with the other messages God gives. A man in relationship with his God (as Christians are meant to be) was the design; it's not the added flavor. We are not apart from this world. We are a part of it, so I just don't see God using salt in this context.
As with pretty much everything, I could be wrong. I am not now, nor have I ever been, God.
Another theory leans toward salt as a preservative. This is possible. For those of you who have always grown up with things like refrigerators and freezers, this goes back a few generations. But salt was used to preserve foods for later use before we had all this high-tech stuff. You can still see remnants of this old fashioned idea today - which is why we have canned goods with or without salt...and "without" is the one that's specially labeled! So perhaps God was saying that we, His people, are the preservers of the world. Maybe He was saying that we hold on to the way this world was meant to be, and it is because of our presence and our faithfulness that this world stays palatable. I kind of like this idea, of being a preserver. It ties right in to what I believe I do in ministry as a chaplain, among many other things. It certainly feels holy.
Again, I could be wrong. I am not now, nor have I ever been, God.
And let's be honest - Jesus doesn't help us out a lot. He says this cryptic thing - You are the salt of the earth - and the only other clue we get is even more cryptic: But if salt loses its saltiness, then it is no longer salt and how does it get its saltiness back. Uhm...what?
Since it's hard to even know, and since we have some theories, and even though I kind of like some of those theories and they do make logical sense, I want to throw one out there that I haven't heard touted before. Just for the sake of conversation. And this idea comes from the book of Judges.
God has enabled His people to defeat their enemies, and the Israelites have ransacked the cities. As they claim men and women, slaves and free, animals and crops for the Lord, God tells them to "salt the land, so that nothing will ever grow there again." Salt can be used to ruin things!
On the surface, it doesn't look like this would be at all what Jesus meant when He said You are the salt of the earth. But what if it is? What if God is saying, I sent you to ruin this world for everything else. I sent you so that no other idea, no other love, no other god would ever grow here?
I kind of like that idea.
You are the salt of the earth. You are the reminder of who God is. You are the example of what it means to have a relationship with Him. You are the living representation of love. When this world sets its eyes on you, even though they might never admit it, they are ruined for anything else. Everyone will always be looking for that one good thing, that good thing that makes you so...different. That one thing that sets you apart. Once they see that, nothing else will ever take root in their hearts. Nothing else will grow here.
So I'll say it again. You are the salt of the earth. What if you lived in such a way that you ruined this world for everything but God?