Blog - Grasping Vocation
God’s Salt Strategy and the Work WorldWednesday, November 24, 2010
After my last post, I spent two weeks in Kingston, Jamaica, in a course offered by the Bakke Graduate University (BGU) of Seattle. What I saw there brought to mind what Jesus said about salt. Salt sits within easy reach at most dinner tables. It's also found abundantly in just about every region of the world—whether in saltwater, soil, or rock.
Jesus said his followers are the "salt of the earth.” What did he mean? We typically think of salt's power to bring out food's true flavor and to preserve it from decay. Jesus probably meant us to see our effect on earth in both ways. But each of those meanings includes something else—the ability of salt to penetrate.
Pack pork in salt, and water will leach out as the salt seeps in. The same process—water out as salt penetrates—works in the production of cheese. And a cucumber turns into a pickle as the salty brine infiltrates it. Jesus, who sends us into the world as salt, created salt. So he certainly knew its power to penetrate.
When salt has done its work, it permeates the meat, the cheese, and the cucumber with some new qualities. According to the International Council for the Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders, "Different cultures have variously held salt as a symbol of divinity, purity, welcome, hospitality, wit, wisdom.” In other places salt speaks of grace, beauty, or charm. Because the Spirit of Christ lives in each believer, we have the power to "salt” the world with similar qualities—grace, beauty, charm, purity, hospitality, wisdom and so on. Those qualities and more reflect our King, whose Kingdom we represent
God has sprinkled his people like salt throughout the work world. Why? Conditions in the work world are often grace-less, ugly, displeasing, impure, inhospitable, and unwise. So he scatters us, his salt grains, into that world to penetrate it with the attractive qualities of the true King.
Jamaica is known for its corruption. It is also said to have a higher number of churches per-capita than anywhere else. As our BGU class visited various parts of Kingston by bus, I saw one church building after another side-by-side with business after business. Why, I asked myself, has the presence of all those churches apparently had such a minimal effect on the corruption?
The answer seemed obvious. Jesus expects neither church buildings nor church programs to penetrate society. God has given that infiltrating capacity to believers, the salt of the earth. As the bus continued, I asked a fellow classmate, a Jamaican pastor: "In a typical church, how many work in businesses like this?” He thought perhaps 75 percent. Believers have already penetrated Jamaican society. But are they salting it? Jesus warned that unsalty salt is "no longer good for anything” (Matt. 5:13).
As I returned home to the U.S., a question lingered in my mind: Believers here have already penetrated countless workplaces, but are we, in our church buildings and programs, preparing them to work there as salty salt?