HOW TO LIVE A SALTY LIFE
How many people do you influence? What kind of influence do you have on their lives? It is probably more
people than you think. Sociologist thinks that the average person’s sphere of influence includes 250 people.
This means that if our city had a population of 62,500, you only need two people for passing a message to
every person in town by word of mouth. If you tell all 250 people in your sphere of influence and they in turn tell
all 250 in theirs, then everyone in town will know what you talked about. So with four people we could touch
every person in this city. Indeed, with only four or five people we could touch the whole world. We have more
influence than we think!
Jesus used salt to illustrate the power of influence. He told His disciples that because of their relationship with
Him they were the salt of the earth. He closed this extended section on discipleship with the affirmation that salt
is good, but then He added the word of caution and warning; “But if it loses it saltiness, how can it be made
salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out.” The salt that was ordinarily used
in Palestine in that day was actually taken from the Dead Sea. The waters were allowed to evaporate leaving
the salt behind. Unfortunately, the salt was not pure––it was mixed with other minerals. There was a tendency
over time for the salt to lose its taste. When the salt had lost its taste, it was no longer useful. In fact, it had to
be handled very carefully. About the only place that was appropriate to put it was on the pathway where you
didn’t want anything to grow. If you mixed it with the manure pile it would corrupt the manure. If you threw it out
in the field, nothing would grow there. So you had to be careful about what you did with salt that had lost its
taste. But Jesus is not concerned about salt, but rather He is concerned about disciples who have lost their
taste. When a disciple loses her ability to influence the world around her for good, all of the purposes involved
in her being a disciple are null and void. The life becomes useless in God’s kingdom purposes. So, this raises a
question – how can we maintain a life that is salty? How can we keep our influence so that our lives make it
easier for others to believe in God? How can we have influence that will make it more difficult for evil to prevail
in the world? Salt was both used to give taste as well as to retard the progress of corruption. But when salt
loses its taste, it has lost its capacity to retard corruption and to add flavor.
If we see these statements about salt as being the climax of this discussion on discipleship, then the answer to
our question is rather obvious. If we will hear what Jesus says about discipleship and do them, then, we will be
able to live a salty life. What did He say? Are you ready to hear it?
I. LOVE JESUS MORE THAN YOU LOVE ANYONE.
In one of the hardest things Jesus ever said, He makes this clear. He said to the crowd that had gathered
around and may have been considering discipleship, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and
mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.”
What do these words mean? They seem to be inappropriate for the one who was always encouraging love.
Before you reject them listen again.
1. Love Him more than family.
The word that bothers us in this passage is the word “hate.” And the context in which Jesus puts it. Everything
we know from the Bible encourages us to honor and love the members of our family and yet Jesus calls on us
as a condition for being His disciple to hate the members of our family. Are we hearing Him right? Actually,
some of the newer translations have more appropriately translated the term into English. The Living Bible and
the Contemporary Bible both translated “to love more.” They indicate that what Jesus said is that we must love
Him more than we love our family. He uses the word hate in a comparative sense. We are to love Him so deeply
and so devoutly that it will exceed even our love for those humans that we love the most.
These words were important then and they are still important. Unfortunately, it is family members who
sometimes discourage our devotion to Jesus. There are many families in this community that will discourage
their children and grandchildren from becoming genuine disciples of Jesus. If you are to love Him, you must
love Him more than you love these dearest ones. This means that if you ever have to make a choice between
the will of Jesus and the desires of your family, then without hesitation, you choose the will of Jesus.
(These words may not be as harsh as we make them sound. When we meet Jesus, we have met one who can
do for us what our family could never do. This statement reflects an awareness of the limitations of parents, of
husbands and wives, of brothers and sisters, and children. While they bless us in many ways, we have needs
that they cannot meet. Then we meet Jesus, and He meets the deepest need of our lives. He gives to us a
whole new life. Is it not appropriate that we love Him more than we love family?)
2. Love Him more than yourself.
The first part of the statement is easy when compared with the second part of the statement. In the second
part, Jesus says, “Yes, even his own life.” So we must not only love Jesus more than we love our family, we
must love Jesus more than we love ourselves. This means that if there comes a time when there is a decision to
be made and a choice to be exercised between the will of Jesus and my own desires, and then I choose the will
of Jesus. I will not hesitate, if I am to be His follower, to put even life itself in jeopardy, if that is what Jesus wants
Now, the people who are going to influence our culture for good are people who love Jesus more than anyone
else. That may sound simple, and it is, but it is not easy. These other relationships are so personal and so real
that we sometimes struggle to make Jesus first in our devotion. But when you put Jesus first in your love, those
250 people that your life is influencing will begin to notice. It will make it a whole lot easier to convince them that
they need Jesus if they see in you an unquestioned demonstration of love for Jesus that exceeds all other loves.
(Again, I have received a fresh insight. Have I not come to realize the limitations of my own life? Am I not unable
to meet the deepest needs of my life? Am I not unable to rid myself of guilt and give meaning to my life? Has not
Jesus done for me what I could not do for myself? Is it not appropriate that I love Him more than I love myself
since He has done so much for me?)
II. FOLLOW JESUS REGARDLESS OF THE COST.
Jesus proceeded with another statement: “And if anyone does not carry his cross and follow me he cannot be
my disciple.” This statement brings before us a demand that discipleship places upon us. The demand is that
we follow Jesus anywhere, at any time, at any cost. He sets this forth in those two simple statements.
1. Carry your cross.
We do not know as much about crosses as that first century world. Crosses had become a part of their way of
life. Wherever the Romans had gone in that ancient world and brought the rule of Rome to bear, they had
brought with them crosses. They used crosses to put people to death who had broken the law. They never put
Romans to death on crosses, but they put the people over which they had dominion to death on crosses when
they broke the Roman law. So to bear one’s cross is to bear your means of death.
Even though they did not understand him, Jesus had already begun to speak to his disciples about His cross.
And He did have His cross to bear. After His trials in Jerusalem they placed His cross on His back and led Him
out to Calvary to be crucified. Now Jesus is indicating that if you are to be His disciple then you must be willing
to bear your cross. This is another dramatic way of saying that you must be dead to self. You cannot pursue
your own will and desires and be His disciple. You must be ready for a radical life of commitment and obedience
to Him. It must be so radical that you will not draw back from any consequence that may come from following
Many of those early Christians would die a martyr’s death. Some of them would actually be literally crucified on
crosses just as their Lord had been crucified. Tradition tells us that Simon Peter, the most famous of the
original disciples, was actually crucified upside down on a cross. There are still Christians who are dying every
day as a consequence of their commitment to Jesus Christ. I read about Chet Bitterman who went to Columbia,
South America, in 1979 as a missionary. He went to Bogotá to begin a work among the Carijona Indians. Before
he left America Chet noted in his daily diary: “Maybe this is just some kind of self inflated martyr’s complex but I
find this recurring thought that perhaps God will call me to be martyred for Him in His service in Columbia. I am
willing.” Two years later, Chet was captured by terrorist who demanded that his mission group with Wycliffe
translators leave Columbia immediately. The Wycliffe group understandably refused their demands. Seven
weeks later Chet’s body was discovered in an abandoned bus. He had loved his life less than his Lord and had
paid the ultimate price. This is what Jesus was talking about – you follow Him regardless of the cost, even if it
cost your life.
2. Follow me.
This is the other word of admonition and instruction that Jesus gave –– “And follow me.” This word means to
join Him in the way and He becomes your master and mentor. You begin to follow Him, stay in fellowship with
Him so that you can learn of Him and so that you can know of His desire for your life. That is a condition for a
There are some who are advocating that we stop using the word “Christian” and begin to use the expression,
“follower of Jesus.” I think I would be comfortable with that. We’ve made the word “Christian” so repulsive and
tasteless that it has no meaning in the world in which we live. But if you say to someone, “I am a follower of
Jesus,” they might listen to you. This is surely one of the things that is involved in living a salty life. If we are to
influence those 250 that are in the sphere of our influence, and then influence others through them and
beyond them, we must be prepared to follow Jesus anywhere, at any time, at any cost. If we are determined to
live by rules of convenience and safety, we will never be salty! Our lives will be so insipid, so tasteless, that the
world will never take note. Our world is looking for men and women who believe something so deeply that they
are ready to die for it, if needs be. This does not mean that you go out and court martyrdom but if martyrdom is
the price for following Jesus, then you become a martyr.
Robert Murray McCheyne says, “Men return again and again to the few who have mastered the spiritual secret
whose life has been hid with Christ in God. These are of the old time religion, hung to the nails of a cross.”
(A new insight! Does this not touch on the very purpose of our being here? Is not the purpose of human life to
do the will of God and to bring pleasure to Him? It is our role in this world to allow the Redeemer-Creator to
manifest His saving life through us in any manner that pleases Him, whether it is by life or death!)
III. SURRENDER TO JESUS COMPLETELY.
Jesus had another admonition for those who were considering discipleship: “In the same way, any of you who
does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.” The term translated “give up” has in it the idea of
saying, “Goodbye.” “Everything” is a comprehensive word that means everything. What ever may be involved in
your life, it must be surrendered to Jesus if you are to be salty. Let’s expand that and see what it means.
1. Say “Goodbye” to earthly possessions.
This may be the primary thing Jesus had in mind though I think it is more comprehensive than just our money or
our wealth. However, our earthly possessions are included. This would involve anything to which you would
claim ownership –– your house, your car, your clothing, your jewelry, your toys, your farm, your money, and
anything else of value. If you are to be salty, to know the reality of genuine Christian discipleship, then you must
say a goodbye to all of these things.
Does this mean you have to give everything you have away? It could! It has for many Christians! It may well be
at some point along the way that Jesus makes it obvious to you that you are to give it away! If He does, then
you do it. But prior to actually giving it away, you have surrendered it to Jesus. So, whenever He makes it clear
that He wants you to give it away, you’ve already made the decision when you gave it to Him. You surrendered
it to Him. So, have you said “goodbye” to your earthly possessions?
(New Insight! There are two things involved in this. First, there is a recognition of the limitations of possessions.
They cannot meet the deepest need of life. It is foolish to hold on to them as though life depended on them
when they cannot give life, or even sustain life. You say Good Bye to them as an object of trust.
The other side of this is that when you recognize their limitation, you begin to realize that they can be used by
the Lord, and they came from the Lord, so you offer them back to Him. You make available to Him all that you
possess, you give up the ownership, and you surrender them to their rightful owner. Why should you continue
to hold to on to possessions as through they were yours when they actually belong to the One who made them
and gave them to you?)
2. Say “goodbye” to earthly positions.
This would come right along side your earthly possessions. Our positions that we occupy in the world can be so
important to us that we are prepared to cling to them at any cost. If you are to make a true disciple of Jesus and
your life is to be salty, then you must surrender all of your earthly positions to the Lord Jesus. Does it mean that
you would have to resign from those positions right now? It could! But it may not! Whether or not you are
allowed to occupy the position will depend upon Jesus. When Matthew became a follower of Jesus, he gave up
his position in the Seat of Custom at Capernaum. When Saul of Tarsus became a follower of Jesus, He forsook
his position as a Jewish Rabbi. But the essential truth is this; you have already made the decision that in your
life nothing will keep you from following Jesus, including your earthly positions that you occupy. If you ever have
to make a choice between an earthly position and the will of Jesus, you choose the will of Jesus every time.
3. Say “goodbye” to earthly pleasures.
Earthly possessions allow us to enjoy earthly pleasures. Earthly pleasures can become very attractive to us. It
is easy to become so addicted to them that they will keep us from being a wholehearted disciple of Jesus. Jesus
demands that we say “goodbye” to what ever pleasures, positions, and possessions may bring to us. We must
be prepared to never enjoy them again if it is the will of Jesus that it be so.
This is the point at which most of us struggle. For many of us there is one thing, one practice, one habit, one
pleasure, one possession that keeps us from making a wholehearted disciple of Jesus. We have never been
able to surrender that “one thing.” But to be salty, you must surrender all.
In the midst of this discussion Jesus uses two parables. The first parable is about the builder of a house and
the second is about the leader of an army. Both parables teach the same lesson –– before you start on a
project you need to count the cost. A builder needs to make sure he has enough money to finish the house
before he begins or he runs the risk of being embarrassed. The leader of an army needs to make sure he has
enough soldiers to accomplish his mission before he starts the mission, or he runs the risk of a humiliating
defeat. You need to make sure that you have counted the cost of discipleship. Have you ever considered what
it really takes to be a salty, influential person in a world like ours? Have you ever considered what it is going to
take to influence those two hundred and fifty within the circle of your life so that it will be easy for them to
believe in God and easy for them to hear the witness of your lips? The answer is the one given by Jesus. It is
going to require loving Jesus more than you love anyone else. It will require following Jesus, a life of radical
obedience, regardless of the cost. And it will require a complete surrender of everything you are and have to
Jesus. Now, when you choose to live that kind of life, then God will be able to work through your life and make
you a positive influence in a sick society.