"Because all will be salted by fire. Salt is good – but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season with it? Have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one other." (Mark 9:49-50)What is Jesus talking about?
Is he talking about cooking? About putting salt into a recipe? Is Jesus talking about salt at all? Or about fire?
If so, how can "all" be "salted by fire"? Does this even make sense? Can fire be sprinkled like a salt?
Metaphors of salt and fire
Jesus is using the words salt and fire as metaphors. But metaphors for what?
Prior to this statement, Jesus has been speaking metaphorically regarding the importance of following his teachings and not interfering in the service of his followers or offending his followers. His last analogy talked about the fire of hell not being quenched.
The word "salted" - or "seasoned" or "tested" from other translations - comes from the Greek word ἁλίζω (halizō), which means to "to salt, season with salt, sprinkle with salt" according to the lexicon.
Becoming seasoned or tested
Remember that salt is a seasoning and the word ἁλίζω (halizō) can relate to becoming seasoned or tested. So what is becoming seasoned or tested?
Jesus is indicating that we will all become seasoned by fire - whether we approach the Supreme Being or not. We will each have to deal with the fires of the material world in one way or another.
The physical world tests our physical bodies and minds with various challenges. These relate directly to lessons that we each need to learn in this specific physical lifetime. The challenges or lessons that we are presented with test various elements that are resident within our soul:
But our spiritual soul presents dedication to the Supreme Soul as real commitment. This often requires us to forego material world commitments in order to dedicate ourselves to God. This is a test.
We are frequently presented with tests to our compassion. Do we help someone in distress or do we pass them by?
Same with forgiveness. Do we forgive someone who offended us or stole from us?
Faith has various stages and levels. Our faith is tested constantly. Do we have faith in a Higher Power? Do we have faith that He is always seeking what is best for us? How about when we see injustice in the world? Do we still have faith? Yes, our faith is being tested in the material world.
Love is the essential test. Our love for others is tested constantly in the form of people who abandon us or attack us. Abuse tests our love for others.
Love for God is the ultimate test. We tend to love ourselves more. Can we learn to love God more than we love ourselves? If so, how? This is the ultimate challenge or test in life.
Jesus is presenting how we are tested by life.
How are we tested or seasoned?
We are tested by the fire of the material world. The metaphor for fire presents all of the challenges mentioned above and more. Challenges of the material world include death, disease, hatred and so forth.
Fire represents not only these natural elements of life: It also represents the fire of our own desires. The fire of illusion that we are important. The fire of self-centeredness. The fire of selfishness.
Our lifetimes are meant to season us. They are designed to show us what is important in life.
We're not just talking about this one particular lifetime mind you. Most of us have lived many physical lifetimes prior to the current one. This means that we have an accumulated a wealth of lessons - various fires - that we have been presented through our various lifetimes.
Ultimately, the goal is to become salty - seasoned - by all of these fires presented by life.
Seasoned with love and devotion
In Jesus' statement, "saltiness" represents loving dedication to the Supreme Being and to each other. This means caring for God and caring for others.
Such a state of saltiness provides one with not only peace of mind. It provides an internal peace.
Should we fall in love with God, there is no way we can not love others. Because every one of us is a child of God. We are each connected with God in the most intimate way.
Whether we have forgotten that connection or not.
The Supreme Being is the most loving Person. He is not a void or vague force. He is a Personality - and He is the Greatest Personality.
God loves each of us unconditionally. No matter what we do, He loves us.
God also wants the best for us
We must remember that this physical lifetime is illusory. It is not permanent. It only lasts a few decades at the most. The molecules floating around us reflect light in such a way that they seem like this world is made up of solid, permanent structures. But it's not.
The physical world is like a play. When we go and see a play, we can see that the stage is a facade of real life. It is not the real world outside. The stage is just set up to make it look like real life. Same with the set of a movie.
But movie sets and play sets are only temporary. After the movie or play is over, the set is taken down. It was only put up for the purpose of the play or movie.
Same with this world. When the body dies, everything dissolves. Our money, house, family, car, pets, everything is taken from us and our body decomposes. Eventually, all of those things also dissolve with time in their own manner and form. Just like a play or movie set.
So we can't take this temporary world so seriously. Everything is temporary, like the set of a movie or play. And we are like actors in the movie. We are not these bodies, so the pain our bodies experience does not happen to us. It occurs to our shell. Just as a car gets dented up and the driver can get out of the car and walk away, we will leave these bodies in short order.
This temporary body and world is organized to present to each of us a unique array of various challenges. These challenges come in the form of physical survival, pain, angry people, competition, sickness, and so on.
Each challenge is presented to us with a message: A lesson. Do we learn the lesson each challenge presented to us?
If we don't learn the lesson of each challenge, another type of challenge will present to us the same lesson.
Over and over, the same lesson will be presented to us in the form of various challenges, until we learn each lesson. Each lesson is designed by God to teach us something. Something that is good for us.
This is the purpose of this temporary, illusory lifetime.
Why are we tested?
The only reason we are tested is because the Supreme Being sees that we need to grow. We need to grow in order to assume our full inheritance as one of His playmates.
Yes, we are each one of God's playmates. His world is a world of permanent play. Of loving relationships. God and His playmates are constantly enjoying loving relationships.
These are loving relationships without envy, hatred or malice. The relationships between God and His children are pure love.
This is our inheritance. This state of consciousness is what we are intended to become. Should we decide this is what we want.
Yes, love can only come with freedom. Each of us has that freedom to decide to love God and others - or continue being self-centered.
The only problem is that self-centeredness comes with various consequences, because when we are self-centered, we can affect others negatively.
This is why there are so many challenges here in this world. Because this is the world where the self-centered people come to try to be happy. The only problem is, no one is happy in self-centeredness.
Only love brings real happiness. Real peace. This is Jesus' message:
"Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other."
This word "peace" - from the Greek word εἰρηνεύω (eirēneuō) - doesn't just mean no squabbling or fighting. It means tranquility from within. It means having love for God and one another.
Jesus is thus stating - again with metaphors - that becoming devoted to God and sharing our devotion among those who follow Jesus' teachings will bring us peace from within and this will allow us to love one another. This is consistent with Jesus' most important teaching:
"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31)