… how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. [Matthew 5:13 ESV]
For everyone will be salted with fire. [Mark 9:49 ESV]
Here is the second of three places Jesus uses the analogy of salt to describe the evidence of the thinking of a person’s heart. Those who are naturally born have the morphe of a sinner, the inner bent to sin, under the control of the thralldom of sin. Those reborn by the Spirit of God are recreated and given the morphe of a Christian, under God’s control as a citizen of His kingdom. Salt illustrates the inclusion of righteousness, inherent to the image of God, mixed with the presence of rebellion, unrighteousness, found in everyone.
As always, the context and understanding the context is vital to understanding the meaning of Jesus’ words. The immediate context of Mark 9 is found and enhanced by Matthew 18. Jesus revealed His glory to three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration. He healed a young boy, casting out the demon which tormented him and his family. Peter has confessed Him as Christ and is then rebuked for responding to Him like the world and not like someone who truly understood who stood before him.
Then, as they walk along, the disciples argue about who among them is the greatest in the kingdom of God, for none other outside of their clique could possibly attain such an exalted position. What arrogance. Their misunderstanding of Him is deep and potentially deadly.
Calling a child to Himself He admonishes His disciples and us. To enter the kingdom requires being like a child. Children are sinful, born with the natural bent to sin. They do not have to be taught to sin. Before pronouncing this warning Jesus declares His prescription for sin. His words are hyperbole, but the action required is even more mentally, emotionally and spiritually harsh. Whatever causes, inspires, is the vehicle for sin, whatever is used to move temptation into full-blown sin, must be excised. Children lean toward sin but if you are the one who teaches a child to how to sin it would be better for you to kill yourself.
Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea. And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, “where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched.” [Mark 9:42-48 ESV]
Does your hand, your foot, your eye cause or lead you into sin? Cut it off. It is better to spend eternity with the Giver of Life and without a hand, foot or eye than to spend eternity in existing death without God. But what if it is my heart which draws me to sin and the various physical appendages are simply the tools needed to accomplish the sin desired? How do I cut out my heart?
People make excuse to not be responsible. Jesus’ teaching demands a shared responsibility with God. While God is responsible for everyone all are responsible before God. Our works carry no merit. Yet, obedience to God’s commands is expected because He is the Creator and we are the creature, His creation.
He wants us to hate sin and love truth and righteousness as a natural part of being a Christian. We do not belong to ourselves but to Him. Our actions, the thinking of our hearts, must reflect the likeness of His Son. It is better to cease conforming to the world by cutting off or away whatever demands unrighteousness. What we think we lose here has no eternal value and is even eternally detrimental to our spirits. Our responsibility is to act like a citizen of the kingdom of heaven.
What you do reflects who you are and dictates what you will become. God is adamant we are responsible for our actions and motivations. Yet, He has not left us to our own devises but given His Spirit to lead and direct and empower the Christian in the war against sin.