What is it that looks like salt, but quacks like a duck? Give up? The answer is the afterbirth of a mule. Confused? OK, let me explain.
“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men.” (Matthew 5:13)
So Jesus essentially asked, what is salt that does not taste like salt? That of course reminds me of the old saying, “If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” Jesus was saying, it looks like salt, but does not taste like salt. What is it then? An old Jewish Rabbi once answered that question by saying it was the afterbirth of a mule.
My first response at hearing that was to think – that’s gross. Then I wondered what in the world could he mean by that.
Well the first thing you have to realize is that mules are a crossbreed between a horse and a donkey; and they are always sterile. So if all mules are sterile, they can never get pregnant. The afterbirth of a mule, therefore, is a thing that simply does not exist. That old Jewish Rabbi was being clever; but what he was getting at was that salt that doesn’t taste salty is a thing that does not exist.
So, what was Jesus talking about then?
Let me paint a different picture for you. Say you were baking a cake and you asked me to give you a small portion of salt. I give you a small spoon with white crystals in it and say, “Here’s your salt.” Then you taste the salt just to make sure, but instead of tasting salty, it is sweet. What would you conclude? You would probably say, “Hey that’s not salt, it’s sugar.”
So what is salt that has lost its savour? The answer is that it is not salt.
Jesus had just gotten finished, in the first 12 verses of chapter five, describing what His true disciples are like. They are “poor in spirit” (verse 3). They “mourn” (verse 4); they are “meek” (verse 5). They “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (verse 6); they are “merciful” (verse 7). They are “pure in heart” (verse 8); they are “peacemakers” (verse 9). They are “persecuted for righteousness’ sake” (verse 10). They are reviled, persecuted, and spoken evil of for Jesus’ sake (verse 11). For his true disciples, Jesus said, “Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven…” (Matthew 5:12a).
Then, the very next verse is where He calls them “salt.” They are the true salt. They taste like salt. That means the evidence shows that they are the real thing. The evidence that salt is truly salt is that it tastes salty.
What is the evidence that a disciple of Jesus is the real deal? He just listed the evidence: poor in spirit, mourn, meek, etc.
So then, what is the salt that has lost its savour? It is a person who claims to be righteous, but the evidence to prove it is not there. Does your walk match up with your talk? Do you claim to be a Christian? If so, do you live like one?
Jesus said someone who claims to be His disciple, but does not have the evidence to back it up, is “thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Matthew 5:13).
I hope you can see the seriousness of what Jesus was really saying.
He goes on to give an illustration of a light that does not give out light; and then shows how people can appear to keep the law, but still fall short of God’s standard. What is that, except people claiming to be salt, who are not salty?
In verse 20 of this same chapter, Jesus says, “…except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” The proper response to that should be to ask – then how can I be saved, if I don’t match up to God’s standard?
That is a very good question.
When you realize you do not match up, do you realize that you have become salty?
Remember earlier in the chapter, Jesus said His true disciples “hunger and thirst after righteousness” (verse 6)? That means they desperately want a righteousness that they do not already possess. You don’t hunger after something when you’re already full of it.
True followers of Christ know they do not match up to God’s standard. They mourn over their sins. They beg and plead for God to forgive them. The Good News is that Jesus says, these are His true disciples. These will be satisfied. These will inherit the Kingdom of Heaven.
The mark of a true believer is his humility. That is the believer’s saltiness.