I have a new favorite commercial. It involves a man, a boat, diamonds and a horse. Yes, I’m aware this sounds exactly like that joke you heard once in high school. Except this isn’t that joke, because I’m pretty sure the commercial was about Old Spice. Anyway, it’s completely ridiculous and also ridiculously funny, and every time I see it I find myself wishing I could keep a straight face like the guy in the commercial while declaring, “The tickets are now DIAMONDS--! – I guess you’d have to see it. The point of all this is to mention the challenging tag-line at the end of the commercial: “Be a man, man.” I like that.
In Colossians 4:6, Paul instructs the believers-6"Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person."
Now it's true, by the simple fact of a Christian presence in the neighborhoods and communities and workplaces and spheres-of-influence God has placed us in, we act as "salt"-- we are a spiritual preservative. When we're around, the Holy Spirit brings unsolicited conviction that in turn, affects the behavior of the people around us. This is a good thing! But obviously, we‘re also to intentionally act as salt by the way we live and serve while in the world. We function as salt by the way we handle disappointments or respond to pain in a righteous way. We function as salt by the way we live out compassion and patience and forgiveness and by putting others first. These are readily embraced and traditionally accepted ways of being salt in the world. But then there’s that other way we're salt, the way referred to in Colossians, that way that gets downplayed a lot these days. It's that way that's fallen out of vogue and lost popularity because it's seen as being offensively intolerant, or because it's seen as having an agenda, or because on the surface it appears to be shallow. In reality, it is earth-shatteringly powerful. I’m referring to being salt by the words we speak.
I love words, although I prefer writing them to speaking them. And yet, so often I’ve found that it’s really, really easy to say a lot without helping at all. Those are the horrible moments when you finish expounding the profound and look up to see a blank stare from the other side of the table. Those are the awful moments when you’re talking into a microphone and suddenly you’re looking down at yourself from above and you can’t quite make out what you’re saying, and that’s troubling, because… you’re still talking. Why won’t you stop talking? “STOP TALKING!” you try to scream at yourself from your vantage point somewhere in the rafters, but it’s like you just had an asthma attack and all that comes out is one of those tickling wheezes that makes you want to cough. And the idiot with the mic keeps talking. When you don’t know what to say, where do you go to mine the words that will comfort or proclaim or counsel?
I love words, but sometimes they just seem to get me into trouble, and sometimes, they can seem so hollow. My knee-jerk reaction when I'm embarrased by my words is to throw the baby out with the bath water. This looks like me concluding that 'talk is cheap,' and going to the opposite extreme where I'm willing to do many redemptive things without ever speaking The Redeeming Message. I become satisfied with feeding people salt tablets and neglect to show them the water! Maybe you don’t have a microphone. Maybe you don’t have conversations with hurting people across tables on a regular basis. But I’m willing to bet there have been lots of times you’ve hesitated to speak words of Life to people because you’ve felt inadequate or foolish or because your words, like mine, have too often felt hollow, tasteless. And when you get to that point, like me, you're tempted to just shut your mouth for good so you don’t have to feel vulnerable or so you can avoid the risk of offending others. Whenever I get to that point, I’m reminded of Peter in John chapter 6. Jesus has just spoken some hard truth, and many of his disciples have simply walked away. So he turns to his closest companions and asks, "Do you want to go away as well?"— To which 68”Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”
I’m hungry for those words. I need them, not just to minister, but to make it through my day! I need those words to renew and regenerate me regularly, to work the supernatural, moment-by-moment mini-resurrections in my body, mind and spirit that foreshadow that final resurrection when my Savior will come in the clouds and in glory and with the sound of the roaring, triumphant trumpets. When that day comes, I’ll meet my Jesus in the air, but for now, I meet Him in His Word. When that day comes, I’ll see my Jesus face-to-face, and He’ll speak to me the words I live my whole life to hear—“Well done, good and faithful servant.” But for now, I see Him by faith, not by sight, and I build my confidence and my hope on the words of life He speaks to me daily from the pages of His living word.
When you don’t know what to say, where do you go to mine the 'gracious words, seasoned with salt,' that will comfort or proclaim or counsel? Do you wander away down tentative rabbit trails of hunch, down bland foot paths of common sense and personal experience, or do you first run to Jesus in a desperate appeal for wisdom? Jesus has the words of eternal life. His words have the power, His words form the promises, His are the words that dying, hurting people most need to hear. They are the most salty, preserving, evil-eradicating force on the face of the earth. Jesus’ words heal bodies, hearts and souls. His words bind demonic forces and release blessing. His words instruct, rebuke and reprove. His words command and inspire. His words heal the broken-hearted and set the captives free, His words. And we speak them most easily, most naturally, when we have them stored up in our hearts. When His written word is alive there, the Holy Spirit is alive there. His words become stored up in our hearts when we read them, and meditate on them. And we read them, we find these words of eternal life, in the Bible. ‘You are the salt of the earth,’ Jesus said-- and your saltiness comes from Him. He has said something to you in the Bible, so that He can say it again through you to someone else later on. I don't have a boat, I'm not on a horse, and I've got no diamonds to speak of, but I do have a challenging tag-line: Be salty, salt!