I went to the dentist recently to have an old filling that developed a crack replaced. Needless to say, I do not like going to the dentist. However, I have noticed a trend that even before the dentist gives the Novocaine, they try to numb the area with a topical medicine then present the Novocaine injection, all in the hopes that you will not experience any pain, which I truly appreciate. Although my dentist did this for me, he did say a common phrase that later rolled round in my head for a while. He said, “This will pinch a bit”.
This got me thinking about all the common phrases we use with the word ‘pinch’ in them. For example, when we are experiencing something almost too good to be true we might say, “Pinch me to make sure I’m not dreaming.” We might also say things like:
“Lately we’re feeling the financial pinch.”
“I’ll be there in a pinch,” to a friend in need.
“Who pinched (stole) my wallet?
“A pinch to grow an inch.” (as when celebrating one’s birthday with birthday spankings – go figure that one out?)
“Send in the pinch hitter!” at a baseball game.
Or, even that our food could use a “pinch of salt.”
What’s interesting to me is that this word ‘pinch’ has many definitions such as 1) to grip something between one’s finger and thumb, 2) to be too tight and painful, 3) to wither something, 4) to impose financial hardship, 5) to steal something, 6) to arrest somebody, 7) to sail a vessel into wind, 8) a very small quantity, 9) a critical time, 10) if absolutely necessary although preferably not or 11) to narrow and disappear. With all those possible definitions, it can be difficult to interpret the meaning behind one’s words without understanding the context in which those words are used.
Context, therefore, is vital and simply means the circumstances or events that form the environment within which something exists or takes place. In other words, it’s the surrounding conditions. By knowing the surrounding environment, the use or the placement of the words makes more sense to us and is actually how we can sort through a laundry list of definitions rattling around in our heads and come up with one that applies and fits our picture of what is going on.
However, context can be a very elusive thing at times, especially when dealing with scripture and our understanding of what God has been trying for centuries to tell us through the words He chose to have mankind record and read. After all, most of the things in scripture are thousands of years old (not that age makes them any less true) and some of the context has been lost as far as tone, and mood, etc…. Therefore, when attempting to understand scripture, we have to dig sometimes as to what the underlying themes or causes are that make the words so powerful.
There is at least one phrase in scripture though that I don’t think needs a lot of context to understand, which is this: “Ye are the salt of the earth…” (Matthew 5:13 KJV)
God is simply telling us (believers) that we are salt. In other words that we possess the qualities of salt, which are:
1) We are made up of two parts, like salt is made up of sodium chloride. As believers, we are both flesh and spirit.
a) To be more specific though, the sodium represents the spirit in us, as it is a soft, silvery-white, highly reactive metal that is highly soluble in water. The spirit is soft and not abrasive. Silver is a symbol of redemption and white represents purity. The spirit should be highly reactive to those in need adhering to the particular situation and flow freely like water. Sodium is also an abundant element that exists in numerous minerals and many sodium compounds are useful, such as sodium hydroxide (lye) for soap making. Lastly, sodium is an essential nutrient that regulates blood volume, blood pressure, osmotic equilibrium and pH. In other words, it’s the Holy Spirit that applies the power of Jesus’ shed blood in our lives to remove the stain of sin.
b) Chloride represents the flesh, since it is the presence of chlorides, for example in seawater, that significantly aggravates the conditions for corrosion of most metals. When our flesh gets in the way, it tends to create problems for us and the wearing away of our spiritual resolve. However, did you know chloride is also a useful and reliable chemical indicator of any river or groundwater fecal contamination? Hence, we should take note when our flesh is causing a stink in our lives and hindering the flow of God’s spirit. Finally, chloride is a chemical the human body needs for metabolism, which is the process of turning food into energy. Meaning that it is only in this flesh that we can operate in this physical world in which we live. It is only in and through this flesh that the Spirit of God can flow and operate for others to see.
c) Notice as believers, the chemical formula is given in the proper order of spirit first then flesh not flesh then spirit.
2) Salt acts as a preserver and as believers we are to keep the word of God alive in our hearts and rely upon it when dealing with others. (Psalm 119:11 & 1-Peter 3:15)
3) Salt regulates the water content in the body. Believers share the word of God as necessary to those in need who are also known as the body of Christ. (Ephesians 5:26)
4) Salt enhances the electrical signaling in the nervous system. In other words, believers encourage others to want to respond to God and improve our communication with God through prayer. (Philippians 4:6)
5) Salt was a valuable commodity in early history and was used for commercial trade. Believers help others understand their value to God and to others, even though in our society today they may not ever understand or regard it’s value. (Jeremiah 31:3 & John 3:16)
6) Salt is essential in small quantities. We cannot make it through this life here on earth without the assistance of God and those He sends in our lives. We need true men and women of God who will point the way for us. (Romans 10:15)
7) Salt can be destructive in large quantities, therefore as believers we are also instructed not to be an obstacle to others in their journey towards God. (Romans 14:21 & Proverbs 11:30)
Now here’s where I believe we can understand that sometimes as believers, when attempting to reach others, especially as “salt”, all they need is “just a pinch”. Even as Paul said in 1-Corinthians 9:22, we can adjust to the needs of others in order to reach them and be a multiple of definitions to them just like the word “pinch” can mean many things. Some times, we may need to wake them out of their dreams or nightmares, ease their financial burdens, assist in a time of need, help get rid of the unnecessary from their lives, encourage growth, stand in their place and take the hit, or even give them a taste of something better as we speak and live the love of God before them (Ephesians 4:15).
I believe what God was trying to communicate to us in that simple phrase of “Ye are the salt of the earth…” is that as salt we can be flavorful to those we meet. If we are obeying His word, then the greatest witness we can be to others is by how we live not necessarily by what we say. I would encourage you to reevaluate your Christianity in terms of reaching others and if you see it’s not where it needs to be don’t worry, it can be changed and it won’t take much. It may be slightly uncomfortable but well worth it, I promise, after all, it’s “just a pinch.”