Be a Light to the World: Matthew 5:14-16
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 the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Your light must shine before people in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (NASB)
Jesus told us that we are to be “the light of the world.” He went on to describe those of us who are his followers as “A city set on a hill” and then he said that city on a hill cannot be hidden. He then went on to describe us as “lamps” that should not be hidden but put on a “lampstand” so that we can give light all those around us. But those of us in the modern world have lost touch with this simple analogy that Jesus used. So now together let’s relearn what Jesus’ original audience would have understood.
In Jesus’ time, people used small clay lamps that burned olive oil drawn up by a wick. As Christians, we should be like these simple lamps, providing light in the spiritually dark conditions of this present world (Proverbs 4:19; Matthew 4:16; John 3:19; Romans 1:21; Ephesians 4:18; 5:8 and 11 and 2 Peter 1:19). Our lives should stand out from other people in society in a positive and spiritually enlightening way (1 Peter 2:9). After all, genuine faith in Christ cannot be hidden, but will be evident to those around us, many of whom are looking for direction and hope in their lives. As Christians, we have the privilege of lighting the way to God by reflecting the life, love and light of his Son, Jesus (John 1:5; 12:35 and 2 Corinthians 4:6). This happens not only through words, but often more effectively through actions. In order to truly show people who Jesus is and what he is like, we must follow his example and be among people as ones who serve (Luke 22:27). We should actively look for ways to assist others and meet their needs at home, school, on the job and in every aspect of life. By serving people, we reflect Christ’s humility (Matthew 20:26-28 and Philippians 2:7) and show his compassion. We break down barriers of resistance and opposition to the truth of God’s Word and the reality of Jesus’ life-changing power.
But how do we do this? We can serve people through simple acts of kindness (Colossians 3:12) and by meeting practical needs (1 John 3:17-18). Of course, we must “always be prepared to give an answer” (1 Peter 3:15) for the reason for our hope and the motivation behind our actions. But many people will not pay attention to the message unless it comes from someone who cares enough to meet their practical needs. For example, there may be times when we must give food for a person’s stomach before we can feed his or her soul. Or perhaps we need to help clean up a neighborhood before we try to help clean up the lives of the people living in that neighborhood. When you work against injustice, share food and clothes, help your family and anyone else who is oppressed, “then your light will rise in the darkness” (Isaiah 58:6-10). Through practical service and loving interaction, we open the door to share the bold and true message of Christ. Then we will more likely be able to influence people to consider Christ’s claims, believe his Word and yield their lives to him.
In psychology this is called a hierarchy of needs and it is best illustrated in the image below.
As you can see we have to start at the bottom with physiological needs (your basic needs of food, water, shelter, sleep, clothing and reproduction) before one can move up the hierarchy. Again psychology has developed special terms for this. Psychology describes the bottom 4 tiers of the hierarchy as being deficiency needs or D-needs and the top tier as being growth and/or being needs (B-needs). With the following image illustrating this point.
When all this applied to how we are to be lights in the world, we must first take care of those around us D-needs before we can take care of their B-needs. We must take care of their physiological needs, safety needs, need for a sense of love and/or belonging, and need to be esteemed. Only when we have met these needs will those around us be open and attentive to the Gospel message of Jesus.
Today’s Bible Readings:
Haggai 1-2, Revelation 11, Psalm 139:1-24 and Proverbs 30:15-16
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