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Since the most ancient of times salt has been important to the cultures who had it. In fact, there was a time when salt was even used as currency. Where do you think the old saying came from “He’s worth his salt.”

Salt has been used to preserve, season, and cure illness. Even in our Orthodox cultures salt has been used to express hospitality and welcome. Several Orthodox traditions have salt as a gift when the bishop arrives at a parish. The bishop is met at the door of the church with bread and salt to mark the joyous occasion of his visit. I never will forget the first time I saw this done. It was a powerful moment that made the scriptures I had read my whole life come alive right before my eyes!

Look at our Gospel Lesson, and remember these lessons are all about preparing us to celebrate the enfleshing of God. Here’s Mark 9:42-50; 10:1:

The Lord said, “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 round 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 maimed than with two hands to go to Gehenna, 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, pluck it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna, where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched. For every one will be salted with fire. Salt is good; but if the salt has lost its saltness, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.” And he left there and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan, and crowds gathered to him again; and again, as his custom was, he taught them.

“Everyone will be salted with fire.”(Mark 9:49) Whoa, wait a second. What? Everyone? Yes, everyone. What is powerful from this passage is that we are confronted with the reality of our true purpose. We are meant to be transformed by the Message of the Gospel to the point that we are empowered to choose truth over convenience, peace over chaos, and authentic love over the easier and lesser vision of mere rule-keeping. We are called to take sin so seriously that we embrace the fire of God’s love now and allow His “fire” to purify us so that it won’t be our torment in eternity because of our willful rejection of His love! Imaging the torment of having “salt” in a wound that never heals, all because we refuse the healing!

You see, for the Orthodox sin is seen as a disease and repentance is the cure. The “fire” of God’s love can make you “salty” now and able to preserve and season and make your life as it should be. As the Lord, promises, everyone WILL be “salted” with “fire.” But God has made us free to choose whether we are willing to be “salted” with “fire” now, in this life, to purify our hearts and heal our sin sickness, or whether we will foolishly put off this “salting” until the last day where this “fire” will torment us rather than make us whole!

So, the metaphors of “salt” and “fire” aptly describe the purpose of the life of loving discipleship to our Lord Jesus for us now, today!

Today, as we get closer and closer to the Manger where God enters His world to perform the ultimate spiritual healing on the universe, let us treat our sin as the dangerous disease it is and not continue to make excuses or ignore the growing infection of illness that will eventually prove fatal for our spiritual selves. Let’s allow the “salt” of the truth to be rubbed into the wound of our repentance and watch as the grace of God makes us salty! And when that happens those around us will get “thirsty” for our wellness and they will “taste” and “see” how good the Lord is. As we approach the “fire” kindled on the earth in the Manger, let’s allow this “fire” to “salt” us and make our lives a source of healing to the world and be Orthodox on Purpose!

P.S. As we celebrate this week, don’t forget time is running out for our Matching Gift Opportunity for “A Journey to Fullness” video series! Our Opportunity ends on the 31st and all you have to do is go to and join over a thousand donors who have already given toward this project! Thank you and Merry Christmas!



  • Marc Trolinger
    Posted December 21, 2015 at 11:25 am

    Thanks for this solid post Fr. Barnabas. As vessels of the Holy Spirit, we have opened our hearts to the fire of the living God that illuminates, purifies, or consumes. If we are illumined and purified, we truly do become preserving and healing agents as “the salt of the earth.” For those who make the choice to reject God’s healing, God’s love will consume them in the second death that ends their lives of self imposed misery.

  • Ky
    Posted December 17, 2017 at 6:11 pm

    Hi Fr. Powell.
    I know this is a couple of years late. I just completed this reading for the first time this morning and am struggling to understand it.

    I think I’m okay with the first section about cutting off parts of yourself that lead to temptation. But the sort of “threatening” part where we are told that if we don’t do this we can expect eternal fire, seems a bit more like the Old Testament God than the forgiving and loving God we know.
    I mean, what kind of love is it when there’s an ultimatum attached?: “if you don’t love me, you can expect to burn in hell”

    Hope this is making sense. I will visit this page regularly and pray you see this.


    • Post Author
      Fr. Barnabas Powell
      Posted December 20, 2017 at 5:57 am

      Dear Ky,

      What is significant about this passage is the revealing message of warning, not threatening. For instance, in the Garden of Eden God tells Adam and Eve that if they eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they will die. He never says “If you eat of the Tree, I’ll kill you.” Do you see the subtle but significant difference?

      Here, the warning is that everyone will be “salted” with fire. The imagery here is quite clear to the hearers. Anything “salted” was meant to be preserved and flavored. But being salted by fire mean the true character of a person is being revealed. If the fire finds gold, silver, and precious stones, then these elements are purified and made more valuable by the fire. If the fire finds refuse, wood, hay, and kindling, well, the fire consumes these. It is the same imagery the Lord uses in other places about the results of we creatures coming into direct proximity to our Creator. In another place God is said to be a “consuming fire” and all of this imagery is suppose to draw us to preparing to be with God forever by having the character of Christ formed in us so that the “fire” of God’s love reveals a life prepared and not a life wasted.

      So, instead of seeing this as a threat, see it as a clear warning: Don’t expect to come into eternity unprepared to stand near the Fire. After all, that’s the place you were made to experience because you are created in God’s image to be His eternal companion. Hope that helps.

      • Ky
        Posted December 20, 2017 at 9:51 am

        Hi Fr. Yes this has helped immensely! I’m so very grateful. I can see now that the true stumbling block to my understanding was not the passage itself, but my own preconceived notions. Thank you for helping open my eyes to the true meaning here. God bless and Merry Christmas!

  • Ben
    Posted May 13, 2019 at 1:24 pm

    Hi Fr,
    I have stumbled across your post here (another couple of years on ☺) as I was looking for a definition of ‘salted with fire’. (Which mostly makes sensense). I don’t read a lot of commentary on the bible at this stage of life, as I am trying to leave preconceived ideas out of each account or letter in an attempt to be able to believe and handle the Word of Truth correctly.
    Anyway, what caught my attention was your statement referring back to 1 Cor. 3

    “If the fire finds gold, silver, and precious stones, then these elements are purified and made more valuable by the fire. If the fire finds refuse, wood, hay, and kindling, well, the fire consumes these. ”

    I understand that generally fire doesn’t consum gold, silver & stone, but according to 1 Peter 1:7 gold does perish. It appears that the ‘building’ being built in 1Cor is people and those people need to be in Christ alone to survive the Fire to come. It seems to read that any buliding material used that falls short of the foundation quality, of Jesus Christ, risks being consumed.
    There seems to be group of builders mentioned in 1Cor Chapter 1 to chapter 4 vs 6, and it also seems the building or field is the people/or readers of the letter who are being built to survive a fire. Once the building/readers have survived this Fire, then the builder (Paul & Apollos) will be rewarded. If its consumed in the fire there is no reward and the builder wasted his time. The Day will show clearly what building materials (I think messages) they used.
    any thoughts?

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