Keep salt in yourselves and you will have peace with one another.

This is one of those puzzling passages of Scripture that needs a lot of unpacking.   How can salt keep us at peace with each other?   What is Gehenna?   Should we really cut off our hands?   Let’s do a short Bible study to try to understand what Jesus is saying.   The best way to do this is by working our way up from the bottom of this passage.

First, by saying that everyone will be “salted” with fire, Jesus is pointing to the Jewish tradition of sprinkling a little bit of salt on all their burnt grain offerings.   In other words, keep offering yourselves to the Lord as a “living sacrifice”.   Keep letting his love burn away your sin.

Second, Jesus warns the disciples about the fires of Gehenna.   Gehenna was a notorious place called the “Valley of Slaughter,” where the Jews’ ancestors followed the pagans around them by practicing child sacrifice.

Third, Jesus tells the disciples to lop off their own hands and feet and pluck out their eyes so that they don’t end up in Gehenna.   He is exaggerating, of course, but only because he wants to get across how serious the situation is.

So if we put all of this together, we can see Jesus telling his disciples, Offer yourself to the Lord as a sacrifice; let him burn away your sin.   That way, your sin won’t be able to hurt, or “burn,” the people around you.

This little exercise shows us how hard it can be to understand some Scripture passages.   It also shows how closely connected the New Testament is to the Old Testament.   Finally, it shows how helpful it is to have a good study Bible or commentary available to us.   The footnotes in our Bible and the entries in a commentary can shed light on important passages so that we don’t stumble over them or miss out on some new insight the Holy Spirit wants to give us.

Isn’t it wonderful that God chooses to speak to us through our study as well as our prayer?   He has given us the beautiful gift of our intellect;  let’s use it to glorify him and to draw closer to him.

word among us