Sunday, May 5, 2013
Ye are the salt of the earth--so why not sugar?
Christ teaches, “Ye are the salt of the earth” and he tells us “Have salt in yourselves” (see Matt. 5:13 and Mark 9:50). Yet most of the earth craves sugar. In America each individual consumes an average of 156 pounds of sugar per year and we eat less than two pounds of salt every year. That's a big difference.
Crystallized, granulated sugar was around at least 800 years before Christ so the Savior definitely knew about the sweet commodity, yet he told us to be like salt, not sugar. Why, especially when sugar can taste so...sweet?
Anciently, salt was used to preserve food and keep it from spoiling. It was used at every temple sacrifice to preserve the sacrifice from corruption, to symbolize divine protection from corruption, and to give enhancement to the flavor and smell of the sacrifice. In fact, so essential was it to the sacrificial ordinances that salt became the symbol of covenants (Lev. 2:13, Numbers 18:19 and 2 Chron. 13:5).
It was used to greet each newborn child, being rubbed onto their bodies to tighten and protect the skin.
Salt also became the symbol of fidelity. In fact salt, untarnished by worldly contaminants, last indefinitely.
For all those reasons, we can see why Christ would have asked us to be the salt of the earth.
Yet, there are some other reasons we may not readily know.
Salt is a natural mineral while sugar is not. Salt is necessary for life. Sugar is not.
To become sugar a natural source such as sugarcane or sugarbeets, must be cooked and processed and boiled into a syrup to which lime is added. As the sugar crystallizes in the syrup, it is skimmed off, dried and even bleached with sulphur dioxide to produce a false white color.
In fact, sugar looks so similar to salt that, for the untrained eye, it is difficult to visually tell the difference. In many ways, salt and sugar are like wheat and tares.
One way to tell the difference, though, is that sugar dissolves easily in water and salt does not. Try this experiment. Add 1/3 c. of water to two clear glasses. Into one glass add two teaspoons of sugar. To the other glass add two teaspoons of salt. Stir them both equally. You will see that the salt does not readily dissolve in the water and will color the water white. Sugar, on the other hand, melts easily in the water and quickly disappears from view. This resistance to dissolving is one reason things float easier on salty water than on sugary water.
In life, Christ does not want us to melt easily in the influence of the world. When life stirs us up, he wants us to remain separate—white and pure, able to influence those around us rather than being influenced by the world and quickly melting away from view.
Another interesting truth about sugar is that it becomes sticky, whereas salt does not. The hydrogen molecules in sugar bond to other molecules and form a weak glue. Once you get sugar on your hands all sorts of things seem to stick to you...hair, dirt, etc. And that stickiness spreads. Touch something after handling sugar and it gets sticky, too. Then that object also begins to attract dirt and grime. Spill something sweet and it takes great effort to clean it up and remove all traces of stickiness.
Salt, on the other hand, actually cleans away dirt and grime.
But for me, one of the greatest reasons Christ may have asked us to be like salt is that fact that salt crystals are always the same. In fact, so consistent are salt crystals that you can actually mix sugar and salt together and still separate them based on sight alone.
Look at salt granules up close (if you have a magnifying glass that is even better). Salt always forms perfect, uniform cubes--like tiny boxes. Sugar, on the other hand, forms all sorts of different shapes and sizes from small to large, to rectangular to fractured.
Christ wants us to be consistent throughout our lives: to be true to our covenants and not fractured or of random conformity like sugar. Like the straight, clean sides on a cube of salt, the Savior wants us to be straight and honest in all that we do and live a clean and consistent life so that, no matter what side is viewed, we still project the same true character…that people can pick us out from the worldly sugar crystals around us.