When I was in High School, we started football practice in the middle of August. It was hot and humid. I’m certain that the normal weather for August we had back in the early 1970s is a different pattern than we have now. Back then, it seemed like we had much hotter and more humid August days than we normally get in the 2000’s.
Those days were filled with “two-a-days”; i.e., a practice in the morning and a practice in the evening. We would run about in that full football gear, which was much more cumbersome than today. Today, they have lighter materials out of which to make the uniforms as well as lighter protective gear. For instance, shoulder pads used to be much larger. “Girdles” (a kind of “underwear” that held a series of pads protecting hips and tailbone) were standard issue. I’m not sure anyone even wears them anymore, at least not in the college and pro game.
The upshot of all this is you would sweat a lot. And for those, like myself, who sweat profusely when I exercise, sweat would pour. Even today, as my family will attest, when I get off my elliptical machine, I’m fairly drenched… sometimes from head to toe. There have actually been times that I sweat so much my shoes “squished” with sweat when I was done. For a period of time, I went to the rec center in Livonia to do my daily workout. It was embarrassing how much I would sweat and have to do a thorough clean up of the machine when I was done. This is one reason I determined to, at significant expense, purchase my own machine back in 2004, which I’m still using today.
Back in High School, during those August practices, we would be encouraged to take salt pills they provided. The reason for that is that when one sweats profusely, they discharge a great deal of salt from their body. That salt needs to be replenished. To this day, I salt almost all my food and find no ill effect (like high blood pressure) because I sweat out so much salt daily.
We cannot live without salt. In the Roman era, salt was so valued that soldiers at times were paid in salt, Thus, the term “worth his salt” or “earning his salt” came about. Salt was essential as a preservative before days of refrigeration and freezers. Today, we mostly think in terms of the damage too much salt can do to us. But take salt away from us, and we are in trouble.
But perhaps the most pleasing thing about salt is the way it flavors our food and enhances the taste of it. The added benefit to my sweating out all that salt is I get to use it liberally to flavor and enhance the taste and thus enjoyment of my food. When I had COVID, the one thing that I never lost was my taste of salt.
So, salt, overall, is a great blessing to humanity. This is perhaps why it is spoken of in such positive terms in the Scriptures. In the Old Testament in the phrase covenant of salt appears twice in the Hebrew Bible. In the Book of Numbers, God’s covenant with the Aaronic priesthood is said to be a covenant of salt. In the second book of Chronicles, God’s covenant with the Davidic kings of Israel is also described as a covenant of salt. According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, “of salt” most likely means that the covenant is “a perpetual covenant, because of the use of salt as a preservative”. Of course, in the New Testament, Jesus urges kingdom participants to be “salt and light”. Again, the preservative properties, essentialities, and pleasantness of salt is in view.
Paul uses salt in Colossians 4 in connection with our speech: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6). “Salt seasoning” of our speech is positive and pleasurable. It enhances the “flavor” of our speech to those that hear it. The context of the admonition is “conduct(ing) yourselves wisely toward outsiders…” (v.5). There are few things that will “repel” outsiders more than to hear language from Christians that is not “seasoned with salt”. Bitter, unkind, crass talk will lack “savor”. Stinging invective will always be a red flag coming from a Christian. Gossip, complaining, and obsessing about trivial things is not helpful. Taking positions that in no way help or enhance the gospel is not helpful to the unbeliever.
Probably the most immediate and necessary application to this today is our use of social media. Simply because our words are typed and electronically sent via the internet to people with whom we might never have a literal “face to face” conversation does not excuse or mitigate the improper use of social media. Christian, make sure all your speech is seasoned with salt. Salt those texts… salt those posts… and thus follow the admonition of Paul that our speech be always “seasoned with salt”.