As with reference to the verse Matthew 5:13

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Why did Jesus refer to people as salt? Why it is so important as many more valuables are available in this world?


In early times, salt was substantially more significant than it is today. (E.g., see the etymology for salarium at Wikipedia.)

Salt has some association with holiness; it was part of the grain offerings (Leviticus 2:13 [NIV]):

Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings, add salt to all your offerings.

This contrasts with verse 11 (NIV) prohibiting the inclusion of yeast:

'Every grain offering you bring to the LORD must be made without yeast, for you are not to burn any yeast or honey in an offering made to the LORD by fire.

In 1 Corinthians 5:8, Paul associates yeast with "malice and wickedness" (NIV).

Salt is also important as a preservative and a seasoning. This points to the fact that Christians are supposed to be positively effective in the world.

Perhaps most significantly salt is similar to light (another image Jesus used) in being beneficial, distinctive (salty is a major aspect of the sense of taste, light defines the sense of sight), powerful (a little salt or light goes a long way), present in the world (salt was part of everyday life, a light is not hidden under a basket), and even a bit disruptive or annoying (e.g., early morning light can be annoying when one is tired, salt can be similarly unpleasant) while also being attractive (one tends to be drawn to eating salty foods not unlike how one tends to be drawn to a lighted area).

  • +1 Very interesting. The verse in 1 Corinthians you cited takes on deeper meaning when you consider that salt kills yeast. – Dave DeLong Apr 11 '14 at 15:00

Salt fulfills a very specific purpose which other more valuable things do not. One significant thing salt is used for is as a preservative. In the age before refrigeration, this was very important.

To apply this symbolically to followers of Christ, it would seem that they serve to preserve the purity of the world. As it was in the days of Noah, there is a bent in mankind toward impurity. True followers of Christ, the Bible teaches, are called to be pure. Thus, the impact of Christians in the world is to hold the line, so to speak--to bring a standard of righteousness and purity into the world that is supposed to bring restraint to the progress of evil.

Also, salt was used metaphorically in rabbinic literature of the day to refer to wisdom. this would actually fit quite well with the Old Testament where it says "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 8:13) So, calling followers of Jesus or fearers of God "the salt of the earth" is quite appropriate.

  • +1. I like the succinctness of this answer, and the second paragraph does a good job directly addressing the OP's question. – Philip Schaff Jul 5 '13 at 19:36
  • To gain more depth related to the second paragraph, read Salt, Light, and Law at BSF – Warren Sep 20 '15 at 17:03

He did not refer to "people" as in "all humans", but to those who do his will, ie, "good Christians"

And like other answers suggest, salt has a numbers of great properties:

  • preservative [something we could not live without pretty much]
  • taste enhancer [something that brings out the taste already in the food]

ie, so people of God are (or supposed to be :) those who preserve the good of this world, and give it its intended "taste" / happiness.


Salt provides essence and taste to food; no one prefers having bland food, hence the saying "take it with a pinch of salt". In this sense Jesus says that people are the essence of the earth, the planet, it is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

The planet's survival is based on the mere existence of humans. Humans are like salt they provide the flavour to the food, too much or too little can spoil the taste of the food (earth). They, humans, like salt have the power to turn earth into something better or worse depending upon their essence (flavour).

The essence of salt is its flavour, the essence of a human is his conscience, most commonly referred to as a person's soul. If salt (humans) loses i's flavour (essence), it's of no use to anyone or anything. And as a matter of common sense something that is not useful to anyone is disposed off without thought or second consideration, - I mean would you keep something that you find useless? Hence the words "It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."

I hope this a good answer for the words that Jesus used-

As with reference to the verse Matthew 5:13:

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

Thank you for your patience

  • 2
    Welcome to the site! This next has nothing to do with the quality of your answer, it's just standard to help new visitors avoid misunderstanding the site (as I did at first.) As a new visitor, I'd recommend checking out the following two posts, which are meant to help newcomers "learn the ropes": the help page and How we are different than other sites? – David Stratton Apr 14 '14 at 4:03

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