Jesus taught many of His spiritual lessons with parables and stories, using examples from nature (like light) or everyday items and tasks to illustrate the concepts. When I read, ”You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), I always think of another verse about light: ”I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). What a privilege, for Jesus to give us the charge to be light when He is the Light.
Matthew 5:13-16, Matthew 6:22-23, Mark 4:21-23,
Mark 9:50, Luke 8:16-17, Luke 11:33-36, Luke 14:34-35
You Are The Light Of The World
If Jesus’ disciples are the light of the world, what does that mean? Jesus said the most important purpose of being the light is to shine, shine, shine, like the song, “This Little Light of Mine.”1 Jesus said don’t hide your light under a bowl or bed; instead, put it on a stand so that it can be seen by all: ”In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). In addition, Jesus said, ”For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears, let him hear.” (Mark 4:22-23)
Did your ears hear what Jesus said? The Good News is not something we receive and keep to ourselves. The light of Christ in us must be shared with others, primarily because it discloses sin in the lives of the unsaved. If sin is not brought out into the open, a person will never be saved. Putting Matthew 5:16 and Mark 4:22-23 together, we see two main reasons Jesus told us to be a light in the world:
- Share the Good News – We can be used by God to turn unbelievers to Him by shining, disclosing, and bringing out into the open the Gospel message.
- Glorify and Praise the Father – As our light shines before men, God receives the praise and glory for each lost person who repents and is saved.
If we are running around doing good deeds, but not making it clear why we do them, not also spreading the Good News, not giving the glory and credit to God that He deserves, how does that help people who are in the dark spiritually? We are not only called to do good deeds and be nice to people. When God gives us opportunities to serve and love others, we must always use those opportunities to shine spiritual light in the spiritual dark places in the lives of unbelievers (and believers who are straying from the faith). This is the highest form of love.
You Are A Lamp
Jesus also compared His disciples to a lamp. Jesus presses the point that a lamp gives light; it should not be hidden, but put on a stand so that others may see it: ”Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body also is full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you” (Luke 11:33-46). Again, Jesus is telling us to light the lamp (not hide it) and let it shine, so that others may see, too.
What did Jesus mean when He said,”When your eyes are good”? If we (our eyes) live in a constant state of looking to Him, beholding Him, and being devoted to Him, no darkness can enter into our being.2 This is the key to not letting sin (darkness) have any place within us. Our whole being is to be ”full of light, and no part of it dark.”
Sin must not be allowed a foothold or our light becomes dark and ”how great is that darkness!” (Matthew 6:23). We cannot be a lamp to others (believers or unbelievers) if we are deliberately indulging in sin.3 We are to walk in the light as Jesus was in the light; only then are we kept cleansed from sin.4
You Are The Salt Of The Earth
The last analogy Jesus uses is to compare His disciples to salt: ”You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Salt cures meat and adds flavor to food. Once it loses its saltiness, it is not good for anything. Jesus said, ”Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil nor for the manure pile; it is thrown out” (Luke 14:34-35). How does this apply to disciples?
Disciples are used by God as part of His process to cure people of sin (this applies to unbelievers as well as believers who are straying from the faith). We are to share the Gospel message and add the flavor of Jesus and His Word to this world. If we do not, we are like salt that has lost its saltiness, like a lamp gone dark–useless.
Call to Action
Jesus said we are to share the light of Christ with all, to give ”light to everyone in the house” (Matthew 5:15). Do I do that? This study has convicted me that by the grace of God I can and I will.
The key was mentioned earlier: If I live in a constant state of beholding Him, looking to Him, and being devoted to Him, no darkness can enter into me. The focus is not on trying to stop sin in my life, but to be so filled with Jesus that sin has no place in my life.
This is only possible by the power of God, which convicts me once again of how much I need Jesus. This illumination sets me free from trying. My new focus is beholding Him who died for me. That is the way to be a light and a lamp in the world, the salt of the earth, someone that can be used by God, and He alone gets the glory and credit for it all.
- Gospel children’s song written by Harry Dixon Loes (1895-1965)
- John 1:29, Psalm 34:5, 2 Corinthians 3:18, 1 Corinthians 7:35
- Hebrews 10:26-27
- 1 John 1:5-7