From a young age, Christians are told to let our lights shine. What does that even mean? Do I literally have to have a light? If not, what is my light? How do I let it shine? Does it have a switch? Am I responsible for flipping it? If not, how does this whole light thing work? Letting our lights shine has become a nearly meaningless and clichéd line we use all our lives without really thinking about what it means.
God, through the prophet Isaiah, breaks it down into the simplest terms.
Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. Then your light will shine out from the darkness, and the darkness around you will be bright as day.
Isaiah 58:10 (NLT)
Feed the hungry and help those in trouble. That’s it? That’s it. Matthew says it in a similar way.
In the same, way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.
Matthew 5:16 (NLT)
The term good deeds is also translated as light. In both cases, light means things like luminary, bright, clear, morning sun, to shine or make manifest. Everything about these roots indicates a rather public display.
But what about Matthew 6:1 where it tells us not to put our good deeds on public display? Well, it’s all about the heart behind the action. Jesus was talking about the hypocrites who made sure people were watching before they did something. It was all for their own selfish gain so that they themselves would be praised. But God is telling us to do these things when people are watching and when they aren’t. He tells us that our purpose behind our good deeds should be to point people back to Him.
By taking care of the very basic needs of those around us for no other reason but that they need it is allowing our light—Jesus—to shine. When we show others the love and mercy that Christ showed us, the glory is not ours, but God’s alone.
So now that you know how and why to do it, shine!
Daily Bible reading: Isaiah 56-58, 1 Thessalonians 3