“You are the light of the world…Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5.14-16). In the midst of this familiar passage lies a potentially unrealized truth. Although I have taught on this passage many times before, there was a great lesson that I had failed to grasp.
Light is fascinating. Even though the brightness of a light bulb is constant, its perceived brightness is always determined by its surroundings. For example, a lamp that shines in a house during the daytime may not even be noticed, while the very same lamp may appear so bright at night that it hurts one’s eyes. Well, what is the difference? It is not the lamp that changed, but rather the surroundings.
So, what does this have to do with Matthew 5.14-16? The brightness of a Christian will also be determined by its surroundings. While surrounded by the lights of other Christians, I may not even be able to tell whether or not I am shining. In fact, I may even deceive myself into believing that I am shining brightly when in reality it may just be the lights of those around me that are shining on me. But, take away the other lights and one will quickly discover his brightness. In other words, inside the walls of a church building is not the best place to determine one’s effectiveness in relation to Matthew 5.14-16. Instead, that will happen in the world while one is in the midst of darkness.
There is a reason that Jesus left such an impression in this world. His light was so bright that the world still has not put it out. As John wrote concerning Jesus, “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1.4). Jesus shined the brightest among sinners. Let us not deceive ourselves, but rather follow in the footsteps of Jesus and shine in such a way that points others to God.