“You are the light of the world. A town built 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 others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:14-15
As I said in Part 1, Jesus was so fond of the light-on-a-stand metaphor that he used it in several of his teachings in order to make a number of disparate, yet not discordant points. We’ve looked at how he employed it tell us that he wants us to catch the light that he radiates, now in this passage he tells us to radiate that same light so others can catch it. He bequeathed to us the job of being the “light of the world.”
In the previous parables, God put the light out there and it’s up to us to have eyes to see it. The quality of our sight determines what we can receive. In this one, it’s required of us to emit all we’ve obtained. Let me say this in a number of ways…
- There’s a direct correlation between what you see and what you’re able to show.
- We can only cast as much light as we
- The number of lumens we admit in will be the lumens we’re able to emit out.
- The way we live, and the way we give are dependent on what we see and what we perceive.
- Our insight determines our influence.
OK, you get the point… So, how do we actually cast light? What did Jesus say here?
“… let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
I propose that the primary way we diffuse God’s light is through “good deeds.” It isn’t the only way, but it’s the first, middle, and last way to influence people toward the Source of light, by doing things that properly represent him. It’s not just about how we preach or witness or talk about the faith. It’s not about the ads we put on the Super Bowl or the impressive Easter productions we present. It’s more about how the faith has influenced us to be better people, people more like Jesus, people of character. It’s even more than godly character, it’s how we express our good character in “good works.” It’s not good enough to have a good attitude, we have to show it with good actions.
Sequestered in our churches and seminaries we may have learned how to explain our faith, but the measly beam we emit is dim because we haven’t backed up our witness with works.
“Wait a minute! I do good works for the Lord. I teach Sunday School, usher, and sing on the worship team! Plus, I don’t smoke, cheat on my taxes, or get drunk in public! Don’t tell me I’m not a good Christian.”
Nobody said you weren’t a good Christian. I’m just saying that, while those are good things, and might even fit in the category of “good works,” but I’m just not sure that what we do in our church’s program and what we avoid doing in public sheds much light into the dark world.
The two most common responses to a recent poll on the street, asking the question, “What are Christians like?” were: “They go to a lot of meetings” and “They’re against things.” Put another way, we hide in our churches two or three times a week to reassure ourselves and one another about the rules. I can’t understand why everyone in our communities doesn’t flock to such a cool religion!
In order to influence people toward God it’s not enough to resist doing bad things, but that we insist on doing good things (“good deeds”).
I don’t know; could something we don’t do be considered a “good work”? I mean, is it a good work when we don’t cheat at black jack or don’t swear in front of our workmates? How can we consider something a “work” when we didn’t actually do anything? Just something to think about.
It just seems to me that when we complain about our culture being so self-indulgent and anti-God, we might consider taking some of the credit for it. Jesus said that it’s when they see our “good works” that they too will glorify our Father. Since most of our not-yet-christian friends are not glorifying God all that much, rather than standing around blaming it all on their pagan ideas, we might consider taking some of the blame for not having done our share in the “good works” department. How can we expect any more of them if the only light they see is what is shining opaquely out through our stained glass windows on Sunday mornings?
It might interest you to know that the most commonly referred to “good work” in the Bible – the kind where something actually gets accomplished – has to do with justice and generosity for the poor and vulnerable. That’s the kind of “good work” that carries some actual clout when it comes to demonstrating what our God is all about.
I’m not suggesting that we should care for the poor as some sort of evangelistic advertisement. We do what we do for widows, orphans, and refugees because we’ve been graced by a prodigally generous God. But when we are generously compassionate with those who have less than us it serendipitously touches the hearts of pre-christians – and so much more than our rants about gay marriage or prayer in the public schools. Go figure.
Some of us think that we are primarily responsible to be generous with our fellow Christians. One fourth-century pagan Roman emperor, Julian the Apostate, begrudgingly admitted that “the godless Galileans (i.e. Christians) feed not only their own poor but ours also.” Our “good works” are not to be exclusively confined to those already in the family. We’re told to love our “neighbors” not just our pew mates.
As the Archbishop of Constantinople, John Chrysostom was expected to host lavish gatherings. Instead, he spoke out against the misuse of riches on the part of both the aristocracy and the church. On one occasion he went so far as to sell the chalices from the church where he ministered and give the proceeds to the poor. “You make golden chalices,” he rebuked them, “but fail to offer cups of cold water to the needy. Christ, as a homeless stranger, is wandering around and begging, and instead of receiving Him you make decorations.”
“I believe that God is using the cries of our friends who suffer in poverty today to call the church out of its soundproof sanctuaries.” Christopher Heuertz
Our efforts to see emit God’s light will always be imperfect. But we will never know what can be done until we get out of our Sunday morning seats and try.
Any pushback on this or advice on how to be better lampstands?