Jesus used some interesting metaphors about the effect his followers would have on the world. It would have been easy for a less-discerning person to mistake his meaning. After all, salt can ruin a good dish, just like a light shining straight into a person’s eyes can blind him. Neither sounds very inviting, but that doesn’t stop Jesus from using things we understand to stress a spiritual point. So, just as he did in calling his followers the salt of the earth, we hear him today proclaiming them, and thus us—the light of the world.
Here are his words:
You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.Matthew 5:14-16 CSB
Since we’re obviously not going to think of this as shining a bright light obnoxiously into a person’s eyes, how can we take it?
How effective are we at being lights for Christ?
Let’s think first about the contrast of light with darkness. Jesus looks out on that hodgepodge crowd of people on the mountainside and makes it known that they are light. This world is under the temporary control of Satan and darkness is the result.
John the Beloved got it, and was able to share his Spirit-given insight in the first few verses of the gospel by his name:
In him was life, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, and yet the darkness did not overcome it. There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify about the light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to testify about the light. The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world.John 1:4-8
Jesus, The Light of the World, gives his light to all who believe in him, and as his lights, God uses us to dispel the lies of the spiritual darkness that blinds the eyes of men.
Light cannot be hidden. Just like that hilltop city he mentions, light-infused Christ-followers can’t help but stand out in contrast to those in spiritual darkness. When we are living according to the Spirit of Christ in us, we will think differently, speak differently, act differently, and even react differently to the way of the lost around us. That will both draw people to ask what makes us different, but also repel those whose hearts are not yet softened to Christ. Whether drawn to us or repelled by us, our light brings a reaction and cannot go unnoticed.
Light must shine. There is purpose in our enlightened state of being. It’s just dumb to have a light and try to hide it. As dumb as putting a lamp under a basket. No, we are meant to shine our lights before others, Jesus says. How do we do that? By doing good and giving God the glory for whatever good others see in us. Again, I’ll pull out one of my favorite verses on this:
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared ahead of time for us to do.Ephesians 2:10
You may be looking at that multitude and wondering how effective their lights would be for Christ. After all, they were poor in spirit, mourning, humble, merciful, and nothing that would impress according to the world’s standards. That’s just it—one small candle in a room full of darkness will dispel the night and show the way out.
Christ-followers don’t compare lights. Each of us is light for where God puts us in the world. Our job is only to let our light shine by the good he puts in front of us and giving Christ the glory when anyone turns to look our way.
We don’t do the light. We are to be the light. It’s all about Jesus in us, from beginning to end.
This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine! How about you?
Grace and Peace
*Do a study of light and darkness in the Bible. You will not be disappointed.