You Don’t Know Beans
“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” Colossians 4:6 NIV
Dear Church Family,
If someone were to ask you what invention or discovery has had the greatest impact on the history of western civilization, what would you say? Would you point to electricity? The light bulb? The automobile? The telephone? Penicillin? Vaccines? Pasteurizing? Computers? There is a long list of possible candidates. According to author and historian Umberto Eco (“Best Invention: How the Bean Saved Civilization”), beans, peas, and lentils don’t get the credit they deserve. He explains, “So when, in the 10th century, the cultivation of legumes began to spread, it had a profound effect on Europe. Working people were able to eat more protein; as a result, they became more robust, lived longer, created more children and repopulated a continent.” Part of the problem was that other sources of protein, like meats, were not easily available to the laboring classes. Beans, it turns out, changed history.
Simple things that we take for granted can make a big difference, like a word of kindness or an act of gentleness. You may not think you’re doing much, but it may make a huge difference to somebody else. In Colossians chapter 4, Paul is talking about the way Christians relate to those outside of the faith. He begins by asking for the Colossians to pray for him to have the opportunity to share his faith (vv. 3-4), but then he moves toward their own need to be wise in the way they “make the most of every opportunity” in dealing with “outsiders” (v. 5).
Specifically, Paul says their conversations with nonbelievers should be “seasoned with salt.” Now, in common terminology today, being “salty” in your language isn’t necessarily a good thing. Someone is salty if they are being snarky or harsh; “salty” language can refer to crude language. The salt Paul has in mind, however, is savory, and makes our speech towards others pleasant. Since Paul had just referred to his desire to preach the gospel, and since he had just told the Colossians to use every opportunity when speaking with outsiders, I would suggest that what Paul has in mind is that Christians should make sure that, in their interactions with outsiders, we look for opportunities to “season” our conversations with references to the grace of God.
This doesn’t have to be as overt as a “gospel presentation,” but we can look for ways to till the ground (to use another metaphor) to prepare for the seed of the gospel. Christians should be known as pleasant and positive people. Constantly complaining or gossiping or criticizing is not “full of grace;” it does not open the door for us to share our faith with others. On the other hand, compliments, encouragements, and asking about the well-being of someone’s family presents a different face. Refusing to join in course humor or backbiting can set Christians off as different. That may not seem like much, but being different in the way you speak can make some people curious about other differences in your life. That can open an opportunity to tell them about the source of your differences. If you don’t think this can matter, well, you don’t know beans.