You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 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. 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.
In this passage, Jesus is speaking to normal people like you and me, not to the religious leaders or people of great influence. These were working-class people trying to make ends meet, raise families, and live out their faith. Like most of us, they did not have public platforms or widespread influence, so to be told they were the light of the world may have seemed a little far-fetched. Even more, Jesus doesn’t state it as a question, He states it as a fact. These were God’s chosen people, they had the Word of God in them which illuminates sin and truth and points us to God.
But then He presents a problem, that the light they carry should not be hidden. Imagine a city on a hill in the middle of the night, it can’t help but be a beacon of light for the weary traveler seeking shelter and sustenance. Similarly, you turn on a lamp in order for it to shed light on the darkness so you can see, you don’t turn it on to then conceal the light it provides. Luke records Jesus as saying, “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar, or puts it under a bed; but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light” (Luke 8:16). In other words, it would be absurd, complete nonsense, to turn on a lamp and then slide it under a bed or throw a blanket over it! In the same way, Jesus tells them that they are light and light is meant to shine and illuminate, so don’t hide or conceal the light that is in you. That light inside of them is meant to shine before others and point them to God and to the truth.
This is what stands out most to me in this short passage, that the light in us is not just for us, it is for others as well. I can work out my salvation and grow immensely in my faith, but if I am not living out my faith in a way that others can see and know God’s truth, then I am concealing that light. Our faith is not meant to be private, Jesus is saying the exact opposite here. Our faith is meant to be displayed for all to see, lived out in our day-to-day lives, shaping the decisions we make, determining the things we value and prioritize, and heard through the words we speak and the things we talk about. Of course, Jesus does not mean we do it in an obnoxious or haughty way, but with a tone of humility, love, and service as He has just taught about in the beatitudes. We do it in a way that when others see the way we live they will see and know who God is and His love for them. The way we live should reflect the teachings of Jesus for all to see and point them to the Savior.
Of course, we will continue to sin and fall short, but even our confession and repentance shines God’s light! When we are honest about our sin and failures and let the world see even that, they will see the mercy and love of God and be pointed to our God who desires for them to know that same grace. What Jesus is saying here is that as we walk in the light we will shine that light to the world around us, pointing them to the source of that light and bringing Him glory. What a privilege it is that He includes us in illuminating the world with His light. Are you humbly walking in God’s ways, living out His truth, and letting your light shine before others so that they will know God? It is never too late to embrace this truth in your life and let your light shine before others.