by Maurice Hamel
"You are the salt of the earth" - Mat. 5:5
Jesus refers to his followers as the salt of the earth. (Mat. 5:13-14) We are not told "to be like" salt, if we are his disciples we "are" salt! Salt is being referred to here, not as a seasoning, but as a means of preventing meat from spoiling. Consider how the environment is affected by man's ability to act as salt in a decaying world.
When God swept away Sodom and Gomorrah in response to the outcry against their "grievous" sin (Gen. 18:20-23), man and beast, plant and soil all were destroyed by the fire and brimstone that vented out of the briny bottom sediments of the Dead Sea. Before this occurred, the Bible clearly states that angels visited both Abraham and Lot explicitly stating this was a judgment being passed on those cities in response to that culture's undiluted wickedness. (Gen. 18:20 & 19:13)
Abraham's request for mercy on behalf of the few God-fearing people living in Sodom is worth noting. Had ten people living there been seeking to follow God, rather than exclusively their own desires, then the city would have been spared. As it turned out only Lot and two of his family would successfully leave the city.
The corruption was judged and punished, but the judgment came not because the Sodomites were wicked, but because they did not maintain enough virtue among them to justify God's continued patience with the wicked. The number of God's intermediaries, the body of believers, was not large enough to prevent the necessary "critical mass" of corruption, which would bring an end to God's patience. Had a dozen believers been present in this collection of five cities, which archaeologists suggest had a population numbering in the tens of thousands, then God would have deferred the judgment. Perhaps God would have used that handful of people to prevent the culture from deteriorating to the extent it did. Or maybe there might have been some continued potential that others would repent as a result of the good influence of God's people.
There were certainly some God-fearing people in the world of Noah's youth. What happened to all these people during the Flood? If you calculate, from Genesis chapter 5, the ages at which the pre-Flood patriarchs died, it appears that God was withdrawing his people from the world in the years immediately prior to the Flood. The "church" of that day had been taken out of the world, and in spite of the presence of Noah and his family, the critical mass necessary for judgment occurred.
We can ask why God did not just send more believers, missionaries if you will, into the world prior to the Flood or into Sodom to spare the destruction of both man and nature. The same question could be asked concerning the Canaanites who occupied the Promised Land that Israel was given. Yet the real question is why our continued rejection of God's rules of conduct has not caused these things to happen more often. Addressing this issue in Luke 13:1-5, Jesus asked his disciples if those who had been killed when a tower collapsed were any more wicked than the rest who lived in that city. He told them what they should really be asking is why it had not fallen on them instead! This is an indication that God's kindness, tolerance and patience is allowing us a grace period, for a limited time, to see the error of our ways as he leads us toward repentance.
So it is the Church that is the real source of environmental protection in the world. Over and over, the Bible records how judgment has come upon mankind when the stabilizing presence of God-fearing people, is absent. Those who have yielded their self-will to the will of God and the direction of his Word somehow act to prevent the deterioration of a culture, like salt was once used to preserve meat. It is those whose faith God credits as righteousness who are restraining the further deterioration of the world. Therefore, we can conclude that if the salting effect of God-fearing people is reduced, then social decay and environmental degradation will increase. Of course the opposite is also true, the more people are submitting themselves to the authority of the God of the Bible, the more environmental degradation will be restrained. Quite literally we can say, "You are the salt of the earth." (Mat. 5:5)
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