Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
You can’t hide a city. What would you even use to try? Its size, and its location, if it’s up on a hill, defy hiding it. Uproot a forest of trees and pile them in front, shear herds of sheep and weave the largest covering you can imagine. People will still know it’s there. It is too big, and too prominent.
The light shining through us can’t be hidden, either. What God has done to us is simply too big, too powerful, and too life changing to try to hide. When our Lord convinces us that we are freely and fully forgiven because of his love in sacrificing his own Son Jesus Christ, we are changed as deeply and profoundly as possible. Except for the sinful flesh which clings to us, we are changed into the exact opposite of what we were. We have gone from being God’s enemies to being his own sons and daughters. We have been changed from slaves of hell to citizens of heaven. It is that light of Christ’s love for us which shines through us, not some light of our own. The light of Christ is too big and too prominent to be hidden.
It would make no sense even to try. It goes against its very purpose. Lights belong where people can see them. Common sense told the people of Jesus day to put a lamp on some sort of stand, not to cover it. Common sense tells us to hang our lights from ceilings. We don’t mount our light sockets to the floor.
When God lit you up in faith, he had every intention of letting his light shine through you to others. That was his purpose. A light needs to be where people can see it, and so do we. Jesus draws the conclusion, “In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”
It is interesting that Jesus encourages us to “shine before men.” In this same sermon he criticized the Pharisees for doing their good works in front of others. He warns about the way they prayed and gave away their charity on the street corners where they could be seen by others. He even accuses them of announcing their “acts of righteousness” with trumpets.
With us, Jesus is looking for a clear difference. The Pharisees coveted attention for themselves. Jesus asks us to bring attention to our Father in heaven. Jesus inspires us to offer genuine acts of love, not put on an act concerned with what the onlookers see. He calls us to offer genuine love to those we help.
This goes beyond great acts of charity, or great sacrifices of time. It is not an on again, off again practice. This encompasses all of life. Christ’s light shines through how we eat and sleep and play. It shines through our conversation, how we treat our possessions, how consistent we are in our behavior whether public or private.
Our lights may shine brightest when we are not aware they are shining at all. At times of great tragedy, when we have lost a loved one, lost a job, or become very ill, the peace which our Jesus brings to our lives beneath the pain, the fears, and the tears can help to draw others to the Father. Then the light of God himself is shining, and new lights are popping up in people who are beginning to see.