Why We Shine

Pink FlowerIn Matthew 5, Jesus gives us the following words:

“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.” – Matthew 5:14-16

Then in Matthew 6, Jesus says this:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1

This looks like a contradiction at first, doesn’t it? Let’s look deeper into this dilemma.

The main difference between these two passages is where the glory goes. Why do we do good works? What’s our motive? In Matthew 6:1, Jesus is talking about the Pharisees. They loved the attention they got for their good works. They tried to make sure other people could watch them and praise them for what they did. They did this out of pride and selfishness. They had a hunger for reputation. This is what we are to avoid. Even if we may not pray on street corners, we still sinfully desire that others notice how holy we are. We post a “deep” thought on Facebook in hopes that our friends will think we’re super “spiritual.” We heap up empty phrases (Matthew 6:7-8) when we pray in public so we appear just as godly as our peers. We strive for popularity just like the Pharisees; we just go about it in a slightly different way.

We must forsake our reputation. It’s that simple. We must realize that the only thing that matters in this world is that God is glorified through our lives. In the long run, it really doesn’t matter if our friends like us; opinions change and man’s judgement is imperfect. Next year or next week our friends might abandon us or forget us. We cannot rely on them for ultimate meaning and purpose in life. God alone can completely and utterly satisfy us and sustain us at all times. We can (and must) release our desperate grasp on the pitiful treasures of this world and embrace the security of our Father’s arms.

Forsaking reputation is a surprisingly hard thing to do. Personally, I don’t care much about being popular with my friends; yet I still find myself trying to impress people when I’m at a party talking with them or playing a game with them. It’s hard to forget about glorifying myself, because I’m always on my mind. “How can I have fun right now? How can I look good right now? How can I tell others how great I am right now?” We need to let go of our pointless anxieties and seek to honor our Lord and King in our actions. He is the only one truly worthy of praise.

Back to the Scripture. Look at verse 16 of the first passage next to the other passage.

“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.” – Matthew 5:16

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.” – Matthew 6:1

Notice the extremely important phrase in the first passage, “and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” as compared to “in order to be seen by them” in the second. This is the defining point that makes these two passages reconcilable and even harmonious. Giving glory to our Father is the only reason we are to do good works. It is the only reason we live. We are not to do anything if it only benefits our pride and mocks our Savior. However, if a good work glorifies God, it is most certainly honorable and right. If we pray in order to be seen by men, we seek our own glory and dishonor our Creator. If we pray out of desperation and need for our God, longing to see His glory in our lives and to lead others to salvation, we genuinely offer God just a portion of the infinite praise He deserves.

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2 thoughts on “Why We Shine

  1. Andrew Mason
    January 24, 2014 at 7:45 am

    Well written! Great insight and reminder. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Ben DeMass
    February 1, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Thanks for taking the time to build up your brothers and sisters in Christ and bring glory to God with your posts!

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