Long before President Ronald Reagan referred to America as a “shining city on a hill,” Jesus said to his disciples, “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle (lamp-NKJV), and put it under a bushel (basket-NKJV), but on a candlestick (lampstand-NKJV); and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works, and glorify your father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
If one has ever driven at night in the remote southwestern portions of our country, one knows that a lit city on a hill can be seen from great distance. In Jesus’ day, they did not have electrically lit lights as we do, but they did have lamps, lanterns, and torches. Cities stood out. Cities were noticeable. Jesus wanted us to stand out as a noticeable difference from the darkness.
Men do not light lamps to hide them. Men light lamps to shine and give light. Even so, Jesus wants us to shine, not hide our light.
Light dispels darkness and helps man to see. Light is always active (moving at approximately 186,173 mps). It radiates and does not stay within itself. If affects everything around it.
We, as children of God, must give this world light. We do this by our deeds, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:16; cf. 1 Peter 2:12, 2:15; 3:1-2). We also do this by proclaiming the word – “Shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:15-16). God’s word is intended to light the way (Psalm 119:105; Isaiah 8:20; 2 Corinthians 4:4). We ought to be “holding forth the word of life” just as the Statue of Liberty holds out her torch for all, lighting the harbor. May we never forget, we are “children of light” (John 12:36; Ephesians 5:8; 1 Thessalonians. 5:5).
Before closing, let’s consider one thing. Someone might ask, “Will you please harmonize Matthew 5:16 with Matthew 6:1-2, 5?” The answer is this: Mathew 6 is preaching against those that do their deeds to say ‘look how spiritual I am.’ Mathew 6 describes ones that were trying to get men to honor them. We should not be so motivated. Our aim ought to be to bring glory, not to self, but to God through our good deeds (Matthew 5:16; 1 Peter 2:12; Philippians 1:20).
May we each resolve to be salt and light of this world: The light of the world shining forth in word and deed in the midst of a “crooked and perverse generation”; The salt of the earth by having a preserving influence on those around you. Brother Andy Kizer once said, “The fresh carcass of a hog might be all neatly laid out next to a barrel of salt; But, unless the two get together, the salt will have no preserving effect on the meat” (p. 38 – The Bible, Your Body and Drugs). Likewise, if we hide our light under a bushel (or within the church buildings four walls!) we will never light the way for those around us and they will remain in darkness.