February 12, 2014| 0

Got Salt? (Matthew 5:13)

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.

Salt. It does a body good.

That’s one ad we’re not likely to hear! As good as salt is, it’s not food. It won’t sustain you. It’s a condiment that brings out the good taste in food and keeps it from spoiling.

Jesus calls us “salt of the earth” for similar reasons. We are called to preserve the creation and to make it "taste good." We are called to live in such a way that when the world takes a bite out of us, we leave a good taste in the mouth, so to speak.

To be salt means to make every encounter with others a good-tasting experience. We get an opportunity to do this with every person we meet. We get a chance to be salt and preserve what’s good in God’s creation. It doesn’t matter what the relationship is: we’re supposed to make it taste better. This applies to all relationships—customers, competitors, employees, friends, families, loved ones, and even enemies, Jesus says. We are called to be salt, period.

In this sense, business too is a form of salt when it preserves what’s good on earth. Business provides stewardship of the natural ecosystem, as well as the social infrastructures of trade, commerce, and industry which sustain a healthy prosperity in society. Good business ought to serve as tasty salt for human livelihood.

This is a good reminder of the true purpose of economics—to promote human well-being. It is not to maximize profit and market share—those are subservient to a higher purpose. Alfred Marshall set forth this higher aim on the first page of his classic 1890 text, which became a cornerstone for 20th-century microeconomics during capitalism's heyday. [1]

Political economy or economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and use of materials requisite for well-being. Thus it is on the one side a study of wealth and on the other (and more important) side, a part of the study of humanity.

The “ordinary business of life” calls us first to sustain and serve healthy relationships—in other words, to be salt. This is a good ethical test for any business practice: ask whether it’s good for a sound and healthy body, and whether it leaves a good taste in people’s mouths.

For reflection:

  1. How does the metaphor of salt help to redefine your mission statement?
  2. What are the “best-tasting” relationships you have? How might you redress any relationships which have gone sour?

[1] Marshall, A. (1945 [1890]), Principles of Economics, London: Macmillan, p.1.

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© Bruce D. Baker, 2014

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