You know how when you drive down the road at night, sometimes you’ll see this really bright light off to the side somewhere that captures your attention? At least for me, if I’m driving at night and some bright light is lit up somewhere, I can’t help but notice it. Typically, it’s some advertisement or maybe a sign for a store to signify its placement; regardless, it’s a good marketing strategy because it gets my attention. By getting my attention, the owner of the sign has now told me that such-and-such goodies are to be bought or found at such-and-such location. Without this really bright light, the function of the sign would be so much less effective, and would be less likely of showing me where I can find the goods of the organization. So it’s really a great idea by the owners of these stores or services to have a sign with such a bright light.
This tangible example really helps us understand what Jesus meant when he said, “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mat. 5:14-16 NKJV) Jesus wanted us to be like this bright sign that pointed out the location of an organization or where to buy some goods or services. Jesus wants us to shine brightly to those around us; a light that advertises with full functionality that God is to be found in such-and-such place (the Gospel) and provides such-and-such goodies (freedom, life, joy, comfort, peace, love, and salvation to name a few). He explains that we shine brightly to those around us because they see our good works. So in order to be the effective bright light, we need to actively portray the good works Christ has called us to have. Therefore, we should be actively pursuing righteousness in all that we do in order to be the light that points others to Christ.
After concluding the above, I began to ponder on this passage as it relates in my own life. I began to think about this idea of being a light, and I realized that I am almost always a light. I shine bright, I often distract by my brightness, and people really notice me at times. I am the light that is not hidden. I am the light that is on the lamp-stand. I am the really bright sign on the side of the road that catches your eye. However, I have found that I am often the light causing people to see my good works and glorify Dustin Gaskins who is on earth. This is where I fall short so often (not to mention when I do things incorrectly), and I know many others have as well. I can shine so brightly and let everyone see the things I do, but I do it often the wrong way and even more often for the wrong reason. I have found that I am the light for myself, when I ought to be a light for Jesus and for God’s glory, not my own.
A phrase that I’ve seen popping up in places is that we should do good for goodness sake. As I’ve come to know God and to know His will, I can confidently say that God wants that. God wants us to do good for goodness sake. We shouldn’t do good for the sake of ourselves, but we should do good to the glory of God who is the essence of goodness. The real struggle though is the battle with doing good things and then breaking your arm off patting yourself on the back. The real struggle is to not do good for the sake of being seen doing good. There is a real struggle to do good for goodness sake rather than for your own sake. However, in applying Jesus’ teachings and seeking to live the life of Christ, we must cease to be a light for ourselves, and become a light for God and the goodness that He is. Otherwise, we have made the Gospel about us, when it is really about Jesus and how He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life and no one goes to the Father except through him (Jn. 14:6).
So in your own life you need to consider the question at hand: who are you the light for? Are you constantly shining like that sign, getting people’s attention for yourself, or are you that bright light capturing the attention of others, pointing them in the direction of Christ? We have been called to be the light through our actions, and we need to ensure that our intentions behind our good actions are not to be the light for ourselves, but to be the light for God so that all glory is given to Him.