THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD
Matthew 5:14-16 Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Speaking to His disciples on the mountain they had ascended, Jesus said, Ye are the light of the world. Just as sunlight during the day, and the lamp at night, allows people to physically, and safely travel from place to place, so the light of Christians allows people to spiritually, and safely journey through life in order to reach their much-sought-after heavenly home. Although told to His disciples, this comparison, used by Jesus, is applicable to all Christians. Notice what the apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian and Philippian brethren. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light (Eph. 5:8), and, That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15).
What kind of lights are Christians to be? They were to continually give light to a world filled with spiritual darkness, similar to a city that is set on a hill. Consider how welcome the lights of a city would be to a traveler when its elevation was high enough to be seen from a great distance. How comforting it would be, as you walked along in the darkness, to see the lights of a city; to know you were near your destination and were traveling in the right direction. Such is the spiritual light of a Christian.
As darkness comes, the rooms of a house are given a source of light to see more clearly in order to carry on necessary household activities. In biblical days, this light could be a candle, a lamp or a lantern. Today it is usually an electric lamp or ceiling light. In both cases, the light is elevated - placed on a "candlestick", table, or by suspending it from the ceiling of a room. When lit, the source of light is not to be hidden under a basket or any other item that would obstruct its radiance. It is used to emit light, and, by placing a cover over it, would defeat its purpose. From this comparison we can conclude that any source of illumination has the responsibility of giving physical light to those in its presence. As a parable, this teaches us that the light of a Christian is responsible for giving spiritual light to all within their area of influence. Once lighted with the knowledge of the gospel of Christ, it is not to be hidden but used to impart the same light to others searching for a way out of spiritual darkness.
The world, by your holy life, the righteous manner you conduct your life, and by your teaching, will recognize you as a Christian. This is the light you are to hold high, to keep unobstructed, and to give spiritual enlightenment to the world. And why do Christians have this responsibility? Is it for self-recognition? Is it for the praise of others? Are you to let your light so shine before men so that you may be seen? Verse 16, of our text, gives us the answer - an emphatic, NO! Your light is not to shine on you but rather on your good works. What others are to see is the change in your lifestyle, the new-found happiness and contentment, the hope for eternal life that you have found in Christ Jesus, the Savior of the world. Others are to see this light, desire it for themselves, and obey the same instructions given by the apostles on the Day of Pentecost that puts one into the body of Christ.
The source of light, which radiates from a Christian, comes from Jesus Christ. As recorded in the gospel of John, Jesus says of Himself, I am the light of the world: he that followeth Me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life (John 8:12). Those that are obedient to the will of Jesus are His followers; they are known as Christians; they are children of God. They have no light of their own. Just as the moon reflects the light of the sun, so the light seen in a Christian is the light of Jesus as it reflects from the life they live. Others observe this light, desire it, and make themselves available and receptive to it. It is transmitted to them by example and through the teaching of the Christian bearing the light of Christ.
God is glorified when one becomes His spiritual light-bearing child. God's greatest desire is for all mankind to be saved. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). To every obedient Christian, Jesus says, ye are the light of the world!