Since the late 1800s, people with a rugged personality have been called “salty,” probably a reference to sailors who were often at sea, away from the refinements of polite society. But when Jesus told His followers to stay salty, He was speaking about endurance in walking with God. His first-century listeners knew salt was useful only as long as its qualities remained. What about you—are you in for the duration?
Luke 14:26-35; John 21:4-19
In His teaching, Jesus used salt as a metaphor to describe a disciple’s need for endurance. Salt had value, but impure mixtures could break down, losing the ability to enhance food flavor, among other things.
Committing to Jesus demands a lot from us. But His overwhelming goodness far outweighs any price.
Jesus urges us to recognize there’s a cost to following Him—and it’s not a one-time payment. In Luke’s gospel, He refers to it as carrying a cross (Luke 14:27), building a tower (Luke 14:28), waging war (Luke 14:31), giving up all one has (Luke 14:33), and salt staying salty (Luke 14:34). These all imply commitment over time, often in the face of great expense and difficulty. What “prices” have you paid to follow Christ? For example, cost might take the form of giving up ungodly habits, modifying relationships with those who don’t accept Jesus, or continually renouncing pride. Have you ever wanted to give up on your life in Him? What convinced you to stay the course, or brought you back to it?
Giving up everything one possesses (v. 33) is an extreme demand—do you think Jesus meant this literally? Having relinquished your life to Christ when you trusted Him as Savior, did you receive any of it back? Describe the Lord’s response to your commitment and whether it helped you to “retain saltiness” (carry on).
In Matthew 5:13, Jesus also mentioned staying salty. He was concluding His beatitudes, which describe nine possibly difficult qualities for His followers to have. Each one, however, brings a reward that is infinitely greater. Why do you think He added the encouragement to stay salty?
Jesus urges us to recognize there’s a cost to following Him—and it’s not a one-time payment.
Only Jesus is fully aware of how hard your challenges as a Christian will be. Knowing Peter will pay the ultimate price, Jesus strengthens him to go on.
In John 21:15-17, Jesus asks three times if Peter loves Him. After each positive response, Jesus tells the apostle to tend His sheep. What connection do you see between love and enduring in the Lord’s service? How has love for Jesus helped you remain dedicated?
Notice what occurs just prior to that exchange. In John 21:3-6, the resurrected Jesus appears to His disciples by the Sea of Tiberias and performs the same miracle as when He first called Peter: After a failed night of fishing, His instructions lead to an astounding catch. The first miracle resulted in Peter giving up all he had to follow Jesus. (See Luke 5:11.) Why do you think Jesus repeats the experience now? How might this build Peter’s confidence to face whatever is in store?
In John 21:18-19, Jesus reveals Peter will be martyred for God’s glory. How are the words “Follow Me!” like His counsel to stay salty (Matt. 5:13)? Describe a time you sensed Jesus urging you to follow Him despite a cost—what decision did you make?
Jesus’ love is so immense that the mere thought of Him can make our sacrifices less painful. And His acts of love for each of us are as personal and uncountable as they were for Peter and every other believer. (See John 21:25.) Staying salty means being available for every blessing He has planned.
Jesus’ love is so immense that the mere thought of Him can make our sacrifices less painful.
Consider how this study applies to your life.
Persisting in the Christian life can mean many things, like trying anew each day, despite failures. Or not taking up bad habits again after having relinquished them. And you can probably think of other ways we’re challenged to “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1). The Lord is our wisdom and strength in this race; that’s why Hebrews 12:2 continues with “fixing our eyes on Jesus.” But we need practical steps. With regard to staying salty, Jesus also referred to waging war (Luke 14:31). So let’s look to the Bible’s description of the armor of God, which will help us endure.
Ephesians 6:14-17 describes our spiritual armor as the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, shoes of peace, shield of faith, helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). Take a few moments to assess the presence of each in your life. Where are you currently strongest? Where could you use greater confidence?
The armor is described as something we “take up” (Eph. 6:13). That means it’s already ours, and always available. Is it a relief to discover you don’t need to create or earn any of it? What would a simple choice to pick up a piece of the armor today look like for you?
Your heavenly Father has provided everything you need to wage your war, build your tower to perfect completion, and remain committed to a fervent life in Christ, even through daily trials and long challenges. Keep looking to Jesus—and stay salty. You’ll never regret where He leads.
Illustration by Adam Cruft