Godly Talk – Seasoned With Salt

Godly Talk – Seasoned With Salt

Godly Talk – Seasoned With Salt.

“Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders, making the most of the time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”  (Colossians 4:6, NRSV).

Biblical scholars have differed over how to interpret St. Paul’s suggestion that we season our conversations with salt. The first part of that verse to the Colossians Christians isn’t all that debatable. Let our speech be wise and full of grace. When we talk with others, let our speech be courteous, respectful, and patient. May our conversations be a pleasant experience for all concerned. Try not to be obnoxious, or pushy, or argumentative. Bring out the best of everyone involved, remaining pleasant and gracious and compassionate. Let love and truth be the guiding principles of every conversation, even those that are difficult or involve differences of opinion.

But seasoned with salt? What does that mean? As it turns out, salt has been a symbol for many things that would add light to this thought of Paul’s:

  1. Wisdom. Let your speech be seasoned with wisdom. Biblical scholarship refers to all the rabbinic literature which equates salt with wisdom. Salt, like wisdom, is something that can be tangibly applied in countless ways to everyday life. An application of salt, like wisdom, is usually helpful and practical and useful. Wise words in a conversation would helpfully guide the interaction, adding insight, understanding, and useful direction.  St. James describes a wise conversation seasoned with salt like this: “But the wisdom from above is always pure, filled with peace, considerate and teachable. It is filled with love and never displays prejudice or hypocrisy in any form; and it always bears the beautiful harvest of righteousness! (James 3:17, TPT).
  2. Wit. Let your conversation be seasoned with wit. The translators of the New Jerusalem Bible point out that it was a common Greek cliche at that time to use the phrase “season with salt” when speaking of adding wit to a conversation. In a civilized discussion, season it with salt, make the interaction interesting, be witty, make it memorable with clever word play and turns of phrase. Spice up your conversation with nimble thinking, especially about the Faith. Unbelievers will appreciate and remember clever discourse when it comes to discussing your beliefs. In your conversation with outsiders, pretend you are offering a tasty meal with many flavors that would attract the unbeliever. “Winsome words spoken at just the right time are as appealing as apples gilded in gold and surrounded in silver.” (Proverbs 25:11).
  3. Preservative.  Let your speech be seasoned with a preservative. In the ancient world, salt was useful as a preservative to keep fresh meat from rotting. Salt was ground into the meat to prevent spoiling. Conversations need to be seasoned with salt so as to apply fresh, life-giving words to the interaction. Sinful words have a way of rotting the mind and the spirit. Godly words and attitude in a discussion can preserve the life of Christ to someone dying because of the world’s tendency to rot and spoil. Words seasoned with a salt can preserve goodness and health, and help the other person to flourish. Salty words with others prevent sin from having a rotting influence. “The lips of the righteous nourish many, but fools die for lack of judgment.” (Proverbs 10:21).
  4. Healing. Let your conversation consist of words of healing. Salt has been used as a healing agent since ancient times, especially when mixed with water and applied to cuts and scrapes and open sores in the mouth. Sometimes conversations are in need of words of healing. A healing word of Christ can be included in any discussion with another, when a troubled or wounded person is your focus. Healing words promote wholeness that may lead to flourishing. Words seasoned with salt may sting, but when the truth is spoken with love, healing will come.  “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” (Proverbs 16:24). “When you speak healing words, you offer others fruit from the tree of life.” (Proverbs 15:4).
  5. Purity. Let your speech be seasoned with purity. In the Hebrew Bible, salt often  represented purity. When Yahweh instructed Moses with His special blend of fragrant spices for the holy incense, Moses was told to mix salt into the incense. “It is to be salted and pure and sacred.” (Ex. 30:35). A conversation seasoned with salt will enjoy an infusion of pure language that points to God’s character and goodness. Purity of speech reflects purity of heart, and impure language reflects a sullied heart.  “Let no foul or polluting language, nor evil word, nor unwholesome or worthless talk ever come out of your mouth; but only such speech as is good and beneficial to the spiritual progress of others, as is fitting to the need and the occasion, that it may be a blessing and give grace to those who hear it.” (Ephesians 4:29, AMPLIFIED).  “A good person’s mouth is a clear fountain of wisdom; a foul mouth is a stagnant swamp.” (Proverbs 10:32).
  6. Peace. Let your conversation be filled with words of peace.  In the Hebrew Bible, salt was a crucial aspect of the sacrificial system as established through Moses. In this process of establishing God’s covenant with His people, many offerings were to be heavily salted. Salt became the symbol for the promise of faithfulness in their divine agreement of peace, so much so that it was called the “salt of the covenant.” Since salt was often connected to the idea of permanence, the salt of the covenant came to emphasize the permanent nature of the peace between God and the people. Salt was also used in a typical peace-making ceremony between warring families or tribes. So salt came to be a seal of the promise of peace where there could be conflict. James referred to this meaning of salt in Mark 9:20, where he quoted Jesus as saying:  “Have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

When we are advised by St. Paul to season our conversations with salt, he gave us a  lot to think about. Does one have to choose one version of salt? Is there an either-or choice to be made? How about all of the above? There are six different ways we could understand salt in this verse. We don’t have to choose one. We can learn from all six meanings. Especially when conversing with unbelievers, but really in all our conversations, it’s clear we have to carefully consider conducting a godly interaction, seasoned with salt. Our conversations need to be seasoned with wisdom and wit, used as a preservative, using pure words that promote healing and peace. Let us learn how to season our speech with salt in all its glory. “The quiet words of the wise are more effective than the shouting of a king of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 9:17).