SOTM: Matthew 5:14-16 (Light)


(Mat 5:14-16 ESV) “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.”

This passage is clearly parallel with the preceding verse on the salt of the earth. But now Jesus is less cryptic, explaining his metaphor in some detail.

As is so often the case, Jesus is referring back to the prophets —

(Isa 42:6-7 ESV) 6 “I am the LORD; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you; I will give you as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, 7 to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness.”

God promises Israel that they will be “a light for the nations” if they’ll respond to his call.

(Isa 58:3-10 ESV) 3 “‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

“Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. 4 Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist. Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. 5 Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him? Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?

6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

8 “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard. 9 Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

“If you take away the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, 10 if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.”

The prophets use “light” in two senses — which are the same sense. To be a “light for the nations” surely means an example of the goodness of following God that will draw the nations to God.

“Then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom as the noonday” refer to having abundant happiness because of God’s blessings. If you serve those in need, God will make you so blessed that you’ll shine like a beacon in darkness.

And so how will God draw the nations? By the joy and blessedness of those who follow him — as they serve the needy and oppressed.

Sound familiar? The Kingdom (or as we like to say, the church) will live in community in such a way that the world will be drawn to enter the Kingdom by professing loyalty to (faith in) the King (Jesus). This life will have many joyous, attractive features. Among them will be —

to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke … to share [their] bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into [their] house; when [they] see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own [fellow subjects of the King] …  [to] pour [themselves] out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted

He’s talking about the church. Really. And if the church would be true to its mission, it would shine like a city on a hill.

Last point (for today). “You are the light of the world” is not a command but a statement of fact. Jesus’ disciples are all the light that there is. Yes, it’s Jesus’ light shining through them, but if they don’t shine, they’ve hidden the light of Jesus under a basket.

So for those of us looking for the secret to successful evangelism, it’s not a tract or a training program or a sales pitch. It’s a state of being. It’s being light.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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15 Responses to SOTM: Matthew 5:14-16 (Light)

  1. Gary says:

    Striving for justice for the least of these among us remains the focus of the Kingdom today for all through whom God is reigning.

  2. Dwight says:

    I understand why we believe we must have a evangelism program to evangelize, because we don’t beleive that we are enough of a selling point, so we must have a scripted selling program. If Peter could convert many people with one dialogue in Acts, then we are capable with sitting down and talking to people one-on-one. We short sell the light that we are and keep it from others.

  3. Pingback: Light of the World; Light to the World | Christianity 201

  4. Dwight says:

    If by church we mean people, then I am in agreement, but what I often see are the people abdicating their responsibility of “the good works” to “the church” and then sitting back and expecting “the church” to do it. We even talk like this from the pulpit. When Jesus said, “you are the light of the world” he was applying this to the people and not the group as a whole. The individual was supposed to reflect the light of Jesus to the world and to show Jesus to the world as Jesus had affected them.

  5. Alabama John says:

    Rome did as much or more to further the cause of Christ than any preacher.

    When bad times come, folks seek God.

    Times are changing for us in this USA and watch how churches will grow when real hard times come.

    Falling to ones knees before an adversary who holds your life in its hands is a time honored act.

  6. Monty says:

    Was looking at some Jewish Rabbi blogs yesterday and it was amazing how much animosity that many of them had toward the person of Jesus. Most said he was a law breaker. There was a fair amount of falsity in their analysis of who Jesus claimed he was. As in, he never made the claim that he was God. They really blasted the idea that God would become human. Petty scathing stuff.

  7. laymond says:

    “Times are changing for us in this USA and watch how churches will grow when real hard times come.”
    AJ Do you know something the rest of us need to know ?

    Monty, did they claim he did, or did not claim to be God ?

  8. Dwight says:

    AJ you might have something there. When times are good we look to ourselves, when times are bad we look to others. Looking back through the Ot when the Jews did well financially they often slid into idolatry and self, but when they did bad as in hard times they often came back to needing God. The Jews during the time of Jesus were basically helpless and at the mercy of Rome. Yet the preachers gave them one thing they needed…a savior and deliverer in the form of Jesus who offered love and comfort in a time of chaos and uncertainty with the promise of something better to look forward to.

  9. Alabama John says:

    Average time for democratic countries to remain great is 200 years.
    When folks start voting themselves welfare or so many other give aways and quit working, first taxes go up so even more quit working and finally the country goes broke and out of business.
    We are headed that way pretty fast. Who wants to work when neighbors are sitting at home getting their same stuff you work for free.
    Want to get elected, promise even more free stuff.
    Usually a hard nosed person or organization comes around, takes over, interior fighting for dominance ensues as folks are very unhappy to lose all that free stuff.
    Good thing is churches fill up quick as God is sorely needed and request for His help soars.
    Makes you wonder if that is all Gods doing to bring us back to Him. Sure worked with Rome.

  10. Monty says:


    The rabbi’s must have missed the part where the Jews were going to stone him. Something about before Abraham was, I AM.

  11. Dwight says:

    Greece is the word!

  12. laymond says:

    Dwight, comparing Greece to the United States, is ridiculous.

  13. Larry Cheek says:

    I believe you guys have really understood the point I was attempting to make. Many are promoting that we should be teaching the love and goodness of Jesus and humans will be compelled to join the roll of ducks (sheep) to follow him from a desire to be among the blessed sheep. That would be the pattern that I believe God would desire, but observing the messages directed to the early Christians it must have been the hope of a better life than they were now experiencing. We know for certain that many gave up their physical lives displaying their hope for the future life. Ultimately, that was the drawing card which enticed obedience, the visibility of other Christians portrayal of their faith and hope for the future. Are we failing to display that message? .

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