Posted by: smstrouse | February 3, 2011

When Pouring Salt on a Wound Is a Good Thing

Pouring salt on a wound is not a good thing, at least not in the physical sense. When I have a cut on my finger, the last thing I want to do is rub some salt into it. It hurts just to think about it.

But salt in itself (low-sodium diets notwithstanding), is a good thing. Why else would  Jesus have said, “You are the salt of the earth.”?  But what does that mean?

Did the Rolling Stones have it right in ‘Salt of the Earth’:
Let’s drink to the hard-working people
Let’s drink to the lowly of birth
Spare a thought for the rag taggy people
Let’s drink to the salt of the earth.

We usually speak of someone as ‘the salt of the earth’ when he or she is down to earth, unpretentious, just regular folks. But I believe that Jesus was talking about more than this. Salt changes things. Salt makes a difference. It adds zest and fullness of flavor to a meal.  Being the ‘salt of the earth’ adds zest and fullness of life – to the world.  

Jesus was saying, in effect, “You are salt; now go BE salt.”  The world is in need of healing.  We are the salt that can be poured onto the wounds of the world – not in order to make them more painful, but to be agents of hope, healing, nonviolence, reconciliation, and transformation. I like the way that Robert P. Hoch (University of Dubuque Theological Seminary) describes our saltiness as the ‘intensification of our being in fellowship with Christ in the world.’

This Sunday, our reading of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ continues, and we see again what it means to be a follower of Jesus: to pour our saltiness, the ‘intensification of our being in fellowship with Christ in the world’ onto the wounds of the world. We do this in spite of the many obstacles that are thrown in our way; we will not be to every person’s or every institution’s taste.  For some we will even cause irritation, discomfort, and distaste. But saltiness is what is called for – an invigorating, vitalizing, stimulating, enlivening, refreshing dash of salt. 

YOU are the salt of the earth.  The wounds of the world cry out for your zest, your flavor, your healing presence. BE salt!



  1. Reminds me of the saying about afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted–and I think Jesus was particularly good at doing both of those things.


  2. Yep, carried away again…

    Nice use of and explanation of the table salt metaphor, especially since I usually crave salt more than chocolate. And, yes, while salt can be coarse and abrasive, it has also been valued for its preservative qualities for thousands of years. (Ever see a country ham? It will keep indefinitely without refrigeration.)

    I wasn’t quite sure from where the hope, healing, transformative qualities of salt came until I realized you may have been referring to other salts, like bath salts which, chemically speaking, includes soap and other cleansing agents.

    Of all the bath salts, magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt) is the most-studied, and is far more useful than I ever knew.

    1. In agriculture and gardening, magnesium sulfate is used to correct magnesium deficiency in soil, since magnesium is an essential element in the chlorophyll molecule. The advantage of magnesium sulfate over other magnesium soil amendments is its high solubility.

    2. Traditionally, magnesium sulfate is used to prepare foot baths, intended to soothe sore feet. The inclusion of the salt is partly cosmetic: the increase in ionic strength prevents some of the temporary skin wrinkling (“pruning”) that prolonged immersion in pure water can cause. However, magnesium sulfate can also be absorbed into the skin, reducing inflammation.

    3. Magnesium sulfate is sometimes used in bottled mineral water (its presence noted on the label).

    4. It may also be used as a coagulant for making tofu.

    5. Oral magnesium sulfate is commonly used as a saline laxative.

    6. Epsom salt is also available in a gel form for topical application in treating aches and pains.

    7. Magnesium sulfate can be used for the management of severe asthma attacks.

    8. It can be used to treat eclampsia in pregnant women.

    9. It can also delay labor in the case of premature labor, to delay preterm birth.

    10. Intravenous magnesium sulfate may be able to prevent cerebral palsy in preterm babies.

    11. Solutions of Epsom salt may be given as first aid for barium chloride poisoning.

    12. Topically, magnesium sulfate paste has been used as an agent for dehydrating boils, carbuncles, and abscesses.

    13. Magnesium sulfate solution has been shown to be an effective aid in fighting blemishes and acne when applied directly to problematic areas, usually in poultice form. If combined with water and made into a cream, it can be applied to the face to remove blackheads.

    14. Soaking in a warm bath containing Epsom salt can be beneficial to soothe, relax, and relieve herpes outbreak symptoms, such as itching and lesions relating to genital herpes and shingles.

    All of that and more from ONE salt! Note, however, the “cans” and “mays.” Magnesium sulfate has the potential to help, heal, and soothe when used for these purposes, but because it is often considered folk medicine it is easily ignored in favor of “real” medicine…with real side effects.

    To finish dragging the metaphor through the (magnesium-enriched) dirt, and expand on what you wrote…we ARE the salt of the earth–and not just table salt, but Epsom salt, sea salt, Jane’s Krazy Mixed-up Salt, saltpeter, psalter, etc. Jesus tells us that each of us has the potential for helping, healing, and soothing the world in her or his own way, provided we use our powers for good and not evil. (St. Paul elaborates on spiritual gifts.) Even if our efforts are ignored or opposed, we are still salt. Salt’s essence cannot be changed; even if dissolved in water it may be evaporated back to its crystalline form. This makes salt an ideal symbol of loyalty. Jews dip the Sabbath bread in salt to preserve the covenant between their people and God. To be salt in the world is akin to being Christ in the world.


  3. I guess I’m not meant to reply on here.

    Ergo, I posted my reply at:


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