Seasoned with Salt: Using Our Words for the Glory of God

I recently made a long-overdue trip to the dentist. The thought of going to the dentist has always made me shudder a bit, and one reason is due to my overly sensitive gag reflex. As I lay back in the chair, I was slightly hopeful that this time it would be different. But as they popped the x-ray gadget into my mouth, starting with my back molars it quickly became apparent that my gag reflex was alive and well. After a couple of failed attempts, the technician said, “Hold on one second, I’m going to grab you some salt to put on your tongue. It’s supposed to neutralize your gag reflex.” 

A bit skeptical, but willing to try anything, I sprinkled a few grains of salt onto my tongue. Sure enough, on the next x-ray attempt I no longer had the urge to gag. My sweet dental technician had no clue just how profound her simple suggestion was, not only because it allowed the visit to go forward uneventfully, but also because my mind immediately began to fill with all manner of spiritual realities related to salt.

The Significance of Salt

Throughout history, salt has had countless uses, from preserving meat to scouring pans (I took a moment to look up the various ways it can be utilized, and I’m rather mind-blown.Salt is referenced in Scripture multiple times, too, from being sprinkled on sacrifices (Lev. 2:13), to rendering land useless (Deut. 29:23), to being used by Jesus as a metaphor of what should mark our lives (Matt. 5:13). 

But there’s one particular verse that came to mind as I pondered my appointment. Colossians 4:6 says, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.” 

I’ve only ever considered this verse in light of the fact that salt makes bland food flavorful, and therefore makes it yummy to eat. But sometimes, just like those x-rays, salt might simply make something tolerable that would otherwise make us gag because it’s so hard to receive. Salt has the ability not only to make something taste good, but also enables it to be tasted at all

The verse above is specifically in the context of how we ought to speak to “outsiders,” or unbelievers (Col. 4:5). As Christians it can be hard to swallow truths that face off with our flesh at any given moment, but we ultimately know that what God’s Word says is right and that we need to obey. However, it’s easy to forget just how repulsive truth can be to those who have yet to have their spiritual eyes opened to the gospel. Not only does it go against their preferences and desires, but it often goes against their lifestyle and the things most dear to them as well. No wonder truth is so offensive. 

I’ve thought of this often as I read comments, opinions, and statements on social media that—although the statements might be truthful enough—are anything but “seasoned with salt.” Seasoned with wit? Yes. Seasoned with a memorable punch? That too. But gracious? Not so much. Believe me, I’m not averse to hard truths, either receiving or speaking them. They are absolutely necessary. But even I cringe at the ways some of these truths are being presented. 

On the other hand, when I read or hear believers presenting incredibly difficult truths with seasoned graciousness, it is both obvious and life-giving. This kind of communication requires God’s wisdom and submission to His Spirit; it’s not possible apart from Him. Can God use truthful words spoken in a harsh or ungracious manner? Of course! But the way in which they’re spoken can and will leave unnecessary hurt in their wake. It’s far better that someone is impacted by truth because of the way in which we presented it rather than in spite of it. 

The question is, how do we go about seasoning our words with salt? 

How to Be Salty

1. Saturate Yourself with the Word

Jesus said in Luke 6:45, “A good person produces good out of the good stored up in his heart. An evil person produces evil out of the evil stored up in his heart, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.” 

What fills our hearts will surely come out of our mouths. Of course, it’s possible to know a whole lot of Scripture without being submitted to it. But if we truly love God, we’ll fill our minds and hearts with His Word in order to obey Him and be transformed by truth. As Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and effective,” with the ability to transform our hearts—and therefore our words—for His glory. As we prepare for interactions and potentially touchy conversations with those in our spheres, it’s absolutely necessary that we’re filled and equipped with Scripture so that our words and demeanor are glorifying to Him.

If you’re not sure where to start, consider reading through James and Colossians. Note how believers are commanded to conduct themselves (specifically as it applies to our speech) and how that contrasts with worldly behavior. 

2. Pray for Wisdom

One of my favorite and most-applied verses is James 1:5, which says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him” (ESV). 

What a promise! We as believers have unlimited access to God’s wisdom for any situation and conversation. All we need to do is ask. 

Our continual posture in approaching how we ought to use our words, spoken or written, should be humble, prayerful acknowledgement that God alone has the insight and understanding we need. This should keep us in continual dependence before Him, day in and day out, as we seek to use our mouths for God’s glory. 

Try to make it a habit to pause and pray for wisdom before giving advice, answering a tough question, responding to an accusation, offering comfort, or any other circumstance you find yourself in where careful words are required. God will surely give it as we come to Him in faith. 

3. Ask: Who Am I Talking To?

One interesting aspect of Colossians 4:6 is the statement, “so that you may know how you should answer each person.” We can fairly certainly assume this means that each answer will vary depending on who we are engaging with. In the context of this verse, as I mentioned earlier, it’s specifically addressing how we interact with unbelievers, but I think the principle can apply to whoever we’re talking with, whether Christian or not. Here are some things to consider: 

  • Is this person a Christian?
  • Are they engaging pridefully or sincerely?
  • What experiences are shaping their thinking? 

When we take a step back and consider who we are talking to rather than simply launching into our interaction with them, it can keep us from unnecessary misunderstanding, hurt, or even conflict. 

When we’re preparing to discuss touchy topics, it can be easy to come into it on the defensive. This is likely true for the other person as well. One passage that I’ve found incredibly helpful is James 1:19–20, “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” (ESV). When we care more about the person we’re speaking with than we do about airing our opinions, we’ll take the time to listen, learn, and then speak with love, tact, and wisdom. When God’s glory is more important to us than being right or even being heard, we can humbly engage with others in a way that is far more productive than it otherwise would be. 

Does that mean we won’t be required to speak abrasive truth at times? No. Does it mean that it will always be accepted? No again. However, regardless of the outcome, we can walk away from the conversation (in person or online) knowing our tongues weren’t starting harmful fires and leaving unnecessary damage (James 3:5). 

Fragrant Spices, Pleasing Aroma

Lastly, I want to mention one more verse that came up in my search on the topic of salt. There is only one other instance in Scripture when the exact phrase “seasoned with salt” is used, and it’s in Exodus 30:34–35 when God is giving Moses instructions on how to prepare the sacred incense used in the tabernacle. It says, 

The LORD said to Moses: “Take fragrant spices: stacte, onycha, and galbanum; the spices and pure frankincense are to be in equal measures. Prepare expertly blended incense from these; it is to be seasoned with salt, pure and holy.”

Our words, like that incense, are to be offered as a pleasing aroma to the Lord. Our tongues are to be surrendered to our Creator, set apart for His glory. This is an impossible calling in our own strength. But God is so faithful. Because of Jesus—His death, burial, and resurrection on our behalf—we have the ability to use our words as worship to our Creator. What an astounding privilege. 

As I’m sure is true of us all, I have spoken far too many unseasoned words. We can be tempted to despair, losing hope that our mouths will ever be sanctified. But rather than turning inward in discouragement, let’s turn our eyes upon Christ. All we need to do is turn to Him in repentance and dependence, trusting that He will purify our mouths to be used as instruments for righteousness in this dark world. 

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