Salt is not Salt for Itself

Epiphany 5 Sunday

Matthew 5:13

“You are the salt of the earth. If the salt has lost its flavor, how can you salt anything? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and be crushed by the people’s feet.”

By the word “salt” Christ indicates what the public preaching office among the Christians is to be. For salt is not salt for itself; it cannot salt it self. Rather, this is its use: It is used to salt meat and whatever else is needed in the kitchen to get its flavor and be preserved and prevented from decomposing. In this way, says he, are you also salt. You are not meant for the kitchen but to salt the meat that is called the whole world. This is a glorious office indeed, and a great, fitting honor that God calls them his salt, establishing additionally that they are to salt everything that is on earth. Yet this office requires a man who is ready to be poor, miserable, indigent, meek, etc., and to endure all kinds of persecution, shame, and slander, according to all that Christ taught up to this point. Anyone who lacks this readiness will never become a preacher who properly begins to salt, but he will remain a flavorless salt that is good for nothing. For much is placed on poor fishermen or some other poor, despised men–in fact, they are overburdened–when they are to be called “salt of the earth” before God who are supposed to begin to salt all people on earth. Reason and nature are unable to do this, because they grow weary and cannot tolerate the fact that they are to get out of it only shame, humiliation, and misfortune, so that they would soon say: “Let the devil salt the world in my place!” This is why our holy fathers, bishops, monks, and
hermits acted wisely when they abstained from preaching and occupied themselves with other things or withdrew from the people. For they saw that it was too costly to find one’s body, possessions, and honor in danger. This is why they made up their mind and told others to do the preaching in their place, while they crawled into a corner and had a good time while serving God. This is also why it is difficult to be an apostle or preacher and to carry out such office. In fact, as far as flesh and blood are concerned, it is impossible. But there must be the kind of people who do this gladly for the sake of God and the Lord Christ, who does not want to force anyone to do this by commandments. For being a Christian requires willing hearts. If you do not wholeheartedly desire to be one, you do well to stay away from it. But when things go badly and the world and the devil show us a sour face and are as mad as hell itself, our confidence is that he says to us: “You are the salt of the earth.” When this word shines its light into the heart so that the heart can rely on it and boast without doubting that it is God’s salt, then let those who do not want to laugh be angry and mad. I can and may insist and rely more on God’s own Word than they on their power, swords, and guns. For because God recognizes me as such and gives his Word as a testimony to it, all the angels in heaven and even sun, moon, and all the creatures must say Yes to it and stand with us against the world and the devil. And even if that were not so, the one Word would be enough for us, that he calls and baptizes us in this way. Let them leave this Word alone, and we shall remain in honors before them for as long as Christ and his Word remain.

St. Louis ed., 7:405-407.

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