This little light of mine – Thoughts on Matthew 5:14-16

#14 in the Sermon on the Mount Series

Matthew 5:14–16 (NASB) — 14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 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. 16 “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.

For those of us who grew up in the church, we can easily power through these verses thinking the song “This little light of mine” neatly sums up what they are about. But in thinking about these verses, I would like to make some observations about the source, the nature and the effect of the light.

The source

Light of the Moon
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Jesus tells us that He is “the light of the world” in John 8:12 and John 9:5. If Jesus is the light, how then can we also be the light? The classic analogy is that of the moon and the sun. The moon dominates the night sky with its brightness, but the source of the light is the sun. In the same way, we may be excellent or poor reflectors of the light of Jesus. However in the darkness of night, even a poor reflection may provide sufficient light to be a guide.

Without Jesus and the good news concerning his birth, death, burial and resurrection, we have no light to offer. It is only the gospel of Jesus Christ that can rescue us from the darkness.

The nature

Darkness and light cannot coexist. When I turn on the light, the darkness vanishes. Where there is light there cannot be darkness; the converse is also true. This was true in Jesus’ day and remains true today. Light and darkness cannot be mixed; you have one or the other.

The same is true in the spiritual realm. I can embrace the truth or I can embrace a lie. There is no middle ground. Jesus is the light and truth or he is not. He cannot be “sorta” true. Jesus made some very bold claims about himself, claims that are ridiculous if they are not true. Just consider the “I am” statements in the gospel of John if you would like a taste of those claims.

The effect

It is the nature of light to dispel darkness and when it is given the opportunity to do so, the light of Jesus will dispel the spiritual darkness. He came to light our path to God. When that light shines, men are called to make a choice. We see this in John 3:20-21:

“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”

Some prefer the darkness and seek to remain in it. Because light and darkness cannot coexist, to remain in darkness requires a suppression of the light. Should we be then be surprised by the level of animosity that is expressed against believers by those who want nothing to do with God? We should not.

Others move into the light that Jesus provides and move into relationship with God. There is no middle ground. There is no semi-light, no gray (or is it grey, I can never remember). When our deeds are exposed to the light, we can confess them and move toward forgiveness, or we can prefer those deeds and move away from the light.

I remember Chuck Colson once saying that it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness. This is true because the candle makes the darkness flee. Even a dim light allows sight and movement. We should strive to be the best reflectors of the light of Jesus we can be but even a poor reflection can provide sufficient light to draw men to Jesus.

Three ways we can shine Jesus’ light to those around us

In reflecting upon this, I thought of three ways we can convey the light of Jesus to the world around us:

  • We can be the light that keeps people from danger – a lighthouse
  • We can be the light that makes the path forward clear – headlamps on a car
  • We can be the light that provides comfort in difficulties – fireplace

I am sure there are others. Can you think of some other ways that we can shine the light of Jesus? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.