13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men. 14 “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
One particular afternoon, during His ministry on earth, Jesus had an audience of thousands who came to hear Him speak. In the first portion of content from His teachings, Jesus explained clearly that the kingdom of God belongs to those whom the world often labels as the least and the lowest, but whom God calls the greatest and highest.
That afternoon, Jesus encouraged His followers by reminding them of their identity as the salt of the earth and the light of the world (verses 13-14), and He reminded them of their purpose by telling them to let their light shine before men (verse 16).
The Lord is referred to as Light many times throughout Scripture (John 8:12, 9:5, Psalm 27:1, etc.). When we became His followers, we also became children of Light (1 Thessalonians 5:5, Ephesians 5:8). Our identity changed from children of darkness, and we were given a new name and a new purpose.
In Matthew 5:14, Jesus says we’re now like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. God has set His light in us and has given us a platform. People will see the light in us, and be drawn to it—this is inevitable. But once those people have seen the light in us, how are we helping them further?
Our purpose is to let our light shine before men in such a way that they may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven (Matthew 5:16, NAS). In other words, we’re not called to merely allow our light to shine—we’re called to shine with the sole intention and for the sole purpose of telling people why we do!
When we are disciplined to posture ourselves this way, we’re no longer just shining a light. When we allow our light to shine, while readying our hearts to communicate the message of Christ to the world around us, then our light is shining in such a way as to glorify our Father in Heaven. We’re postured for evangelism.
I’ve had a personal relationship with Christ since I was a young teenager. Since then, I’ve cultivated some good habits such as studying His Word, attending church, and praying to Him throughout the day. All of these things are important and have been vital for my spiritual growth. But I’ve struggled at times with the act of communicating the richness of my time with God to the world around me.
I’ve struggled with evangelizing. In this way, I’ve been guilty of hiding the light under a bush like verse 15 mentions—not out of evil intention, but rather from a lack of intention altogether! In this way, I’ve struggled with disobedience in my life to the full call of Christ.
This discipline of intention is what makes the difference between merely shining, and evangelizing. Both are good things, and they’re both God-honoring, but only evangelizing allows us the rich opportunity of telling God’s full story of redemption to the world.
We were rescued from darkness, brought into the light, and are merely a reflection of a Source much brighter than we are. This is why we shine—that the world might see us and draw closer. And when they draw closer, we can tell them about the Light of the World.
- Assuming you are a Christian, you already have the Light of God inside your heart. If you have been in the habit of following God and His commandments, then more than likely people have seen a difference in you. But have you ever offered to talk to anyone about the difference they’ve seen or mentioned? Think about any opportunities you’ve had at work, or in your own home, in the past couple months… have there been chances to take any of the conversations you’ve had with people one step further?
- Shining your light with intention may be something as simple as changing a few words in your vocabulary. For example: Next time you have the opportunity to encourage a friend who is going through a hard time, go one step further than telling them you will pray for them – offer to pray with them, in that moment. Instead of being light from a distance, you will be shining the light up close, and directly allowing it to beam into their lives.
- Before you came to know Christ, you were living life a certain way. You were in darkness, whether you knew it or not – and something (or someone) ended up drawing you to the Light. Can you remember what that was like? Were you afraid? Realize that everyone you encounter who does not know Christ personally may feel afraid too. It may help you to communicate in a way that will draw others to the Light in you, rather than push them away.