Summary: So what is the purpose of lighting the whole room? Is it to enable outsiders to see how clean we are, perhaps to see our new carpet, our qualifications up on the wall or perhaps how beautiful we may look?
SERMON---LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE---Mt 5:14-15
He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed; and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”
—Mark 4:21-25, NIV
Don’t hide your light under a bushel,” I advise someone who might be attracted to an older translation of this passage to take care. It does not mean that they should have a false modesty and take pleasure in revealing their accomplishments. That is not what Jesus means in this passage. It is not meant to be one of those empty headed Tips For Happy Living that passes for spirituality these days. For you see, in the parallel passage in Matthew, Jesus did not say:
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 give you proper credit for all your accomplishments.
—Matthew 5:14-16, Reversed Fractured Version
What Jesus did say is this:
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.
—Matthew 5:14-16, NIV
Mark Includes this saying within group of other sayings about the Kingdom, so when read in context we know that Jesus is not telling us how to get credit from other people; What He is speaking of and referring to is His Kingdom. As Christians, we all have received the Light of His Kingdom, but that light is not meant solely for our private instruction. The Kingdom of God is not like a stamp collection, something you do quietly and only offer to show people if when visiting they should happen to inquire about it. The Kingdom of God is like a light that you set out on a stand so the whole room can be illuminated.
So what is the purpose of lighting the whole room? Is it to enable outsiders to see how clean we are, perhaps to see our new carpet, our qualifications up on the wall or perhaps how beautiful we may look? No, it is none of those things. The purpose of illuminating the room is to let outsiders see the light and marvel at the One who gives it.
If we misuse the light that Jesus gave us to attract attention to ourselves, it will backfire. We are not perfect and we all have faults and have certainly sinned. When we ask outsiders to admire us for our fine character or our family values or our lack of vices, they immediately see beyond our words to our personal failings and they can see nothing but hypocrisy. The light that reveals the décor of our house also shows up the dust under the armchair and the crack in the ceiling. So the gospel we preach is laughed at and treated with scorn. We react by deciding that evangelism is too hard and probably someone else’s gift anyway. We retreat into the shadows of our soul and just like our stamp collection our Christian discipleship becomes nothing more than a holy hobby, disconnected from our lives.
What we have done is take our light and put it under a bowl and when we do this it wont be long before it goes completely out.
We should not use the light to draw attention to ourselves, what we should do is draw attention to the light. It’s like being the first one in the street to have electricity. We invite people in to look and marvel at the light. It is the light we proclaim, not ourselves as revealed by the light. Since we draw their attention to the light, they look past our disheveled household to marvel at the illumination. Then they all go away amazed and determined to get electricity for their own houses. When outsiders see the light of God shining despite our sins and flaws, they will marvel, they will find hope for themselves, and they will be transformed.
So we do not put our light under a bowl, where it will be extinguished, but on a stand so it will illuminate the whole house. Not so that people will see the house, which is a mess, but the light, which is a marvel.