If – a small word with huge impact (Matthew 5:13)


Ever give much thought to that very small word – if? Such a hugely powerful word in such a small package. When reading we read right over that small little guy a lot. But that word can make the difference between life and death some times. Think about it. Just think of how much impact that word has had on your life over the years. If you do this … then this will happen. If you don’t do that … then this will happen.

One of the places I think this small little word has a major impact is in the Bible. And yet, we read over it all the time. We like the first part of a verse and so we treat the word ‘if’ more like a period. Sometimes it’s not the ‘if’ that is the period, but the ‘then’ part of the if statement. It really can have a major impact on how we live and how we live out what our Bibles tell us to do.

I’m going to take some time to look at the little word ‘if’ and some of the if statements in the Bible. I think as I bring them up, you will find yourself realizing how many times we have ignored this little guy, yet should pay all the attention in the world. It could mean the difference of life and death, right and wrong, receiving and not.

Let’s start with Matthew 5:13. If you look in your red letter Bible, you will notice these are red letter words. That means these are words spoken by Jesus. I think red letter ‘ifs’ would be some of the most important.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.(Mat 5:13)

How many times have you heard “the salt of the earth’ in relation to Christians? I know I’ve heard it several hundred times in my life time. Here is a case of the if being treated like a period. Can you hear people saying it? “Jesus said we are the salt of the earth” PERIOD. Sure we are, Jesus said so. BUT … notice in this verse, the little guy if is combined with another powerful little guy – but. BUT IF – but if what??? No one really cares do they? We should care.

First, what does being the salt of the earth mean? Well for an extensive look at that you can read my blog ‘Please pass the salt.” But in brief, it means that we as Christians are to keep the world from moral corruption. World?? Yes, world, or earth as Jesus put it. But are we really the salt to the world? Take a look around you. Are we really doing a good job of this? I’m ashamed to say, I don’t think we are. We seem to be keeping all the salt to ourselves. Dumping on Christians within our own congregations and in other denominations. Sure, we are supposed to do that, but Jesus seems to think it should go beyond those within the church – to the earth. Now, let’s move beyond that little if we often look at as a period here.

BUT IF salt has lost it’s taste. Do you know what happens in salt in Syria and Palestine when it looses it’s saltiness? It is scattered on the ground in piles. It becomes the most worthless thing. Like Jesus said, it is no longer good for anything. So this little if is going to tell us what happens if we aren’t helping to keep the earth from moral corruption.

This will make you feel real good. The phrase ‘lost it’s flavor’ or ‘lost its taste’ is really one Greek word, mōrainō. Know what that word really means? Robert’s Word Pictures states that it means “to play the fool, to become foolish, of salt become tasteless, insipid.” Vincents Word Study states that it means “dull, sluggish; applied to the mind, stupid or silly; applied to the taste, insipid, flat. The verb here used of salt, to become insipid, also means to play the fool.” So a Christian who isn’t helping the world be a moral place is dull, stupid, silly … a fool. How many of us are fools? That’s a hard pill to swallow. No wonder we like to treat this if as a period.

Jesus goes on to say that it is cast out and tramped under people’s feet. Ouch! Albert Barnes points out in his commentary that, “It is not only good for nothing itself, but it actually destroys all fertility wherever it is thrown; and this is the reason why it is cast into the street. There is a sort of verbal verisimilitude in the manner in which our Lord alludes to the act: ‘it is cast out’ and ‘trodden under foot;’ so troublesome is this corrupted salt, that it is carefully swept up, carried forth, and thrown into the street. There is no place about the house, yard, or garden where it can be tolerated. No man will allow it to be thrown on to his field, and the only place for it is the street, and there it is cast to be trodden underfoot of men.”

Life or death in that little if. Sure, we like to talk about being the salt of the earth, but what if we are not? Again, take a look around you, are we really being salt of the earth? Are we really helping the earth/world be moral? Don’t look at the Christian next to you. Don’t look at that other denomination down the street. Just take a very close look at the man or woman in the mirror and ask them, “Are you REALLY being the salt of the EARTH? Or are you just worthless, cast out, and trampled in the streets, destroying fertility?”

These are not light words spoken by Jesus. And they aren’t words spoke to non-Christians. They are words spoken to anyone who calls themselves a Christian. Going to church every Sunday, worship when the worship band is good, and just being good aren’t all Jesus wants us to do. He wants us to go into all the EARTH. Do something with the gift He has given you.

We are the salt of the earth, keeping it from moral corruption but IF not we are dull, stupid, silly, worthless, corrupt, fools thrown out and trampled under foot.

That’s a big IF.

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