“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14–16, NASB95)
Driving the mountain passes at night I continue to be amazed how dark it can actually be when I get away from the city lights. And when I am heading home I find it quite affirming to see the glow of those lights rising above the mountains to let me know that my destination is near. After speaking about the purity of our lives and the preserving impact that we have on society when we live unpolluted lives according to God’s ordinances, Jesus gives us another illustration of how our lives are to impact those around us.
Jesus calls His followers the light of the world, and He speaks about us as light in several ways in order to drive a fuller meaning of what He intended. In our world, where man has suppressed the truth concerning God, we are all of God that many may see because of the darkness in their hearts and minds. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians, “in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 4:4–6, NASB95)
Jesus pointed to the greatness of this light when it sits high upon a hill as a light which cannot be hidden. As I have pondered the various aspects of light, I thought first of the light that shines when the church comes together to shine light on its surroundings. And with this I thought of Jesus’ commands for us as believers and the impact that following those commands will have on those who need light in their lives. Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34–35, NASB95)
And not only does it shine when the world sees how we treat one another, it also shines when we engage with our communities and our love is shown in very practical ways whether that be through rescue missions, food pantries, drop in meal centers, or outreaches to our parks and other places where the needy gather. It is shown when churches unite to provide a tangible benefit to their communities and their organizations. It is shown when we care for teens on the streets or help those with addictions. And it is shown when we go beyond our local borders to help those in other areas. Historically it was the church who founded many of our colleges, provided education to the children, opened and maintained hospitals, and provided countless forms of social welfare and aid. The list of ways of shining light into communities and the world are without limit and as broad as our imagination. In all of these we have the opportunity to reach out and say, “God loves you and so do we. Won’t you please consider what He has for you?”
Jesus also pointed to the futility of lighting a light and then hiding it. What a waste of energy this is, and why would any of us do that? If we are going to make the effort to light a light then it is reasonable to assume we want that light to shine. Sure, as kids it was fun to make blanket forts and have our flashlights inside them, but the only benefit of the light in those times was to those inside the fort. But when we light a light for purposes of seeing we want that light in a prominent place so that it provides the most light to everyone around. The place for this light, before turning a bulb into our electric sockets and flipping a switch, was to put our candles in a lampstand. And as the lampstand stood tall it illuminated the room. As people saved by grace we have the light of God in us, and it is incumbent upon us to live in such a way in all areas of our lives that this light is continually on display. The ways we display this light really have to do with the way we walk right before God and others and evidence the love of God to them in regular and practical ways.
Jesus summarizes our responsibility as light by reminding us of the ultimate purpose of us remaining here as light, and that is that as people look at us and our good works they might see through us our great and awesome God and come to glorify Him themselves.
“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5, NASB95)
“Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them; for it is disgraceful even to speak of the things which are done by them in secret. But all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light. For this reason it says, “Awake, sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.”” (Ephesians 5:7–14, NASB95)
And through you!
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel - NO! I'm gonna let it shine.
Don't let Satan blow it out. I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine til Jesus comes. I'm gonna let it shine.
let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.