“You are the light that shines for the world to see. You are like a city built on a hill that cannot be hidden. People don’t hide a lamp under a bowl. They put it on a lampstand. Then the light shines for everyone in the house. In the same way, you should be a light for other people. Live so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)
Jesus is talking about us. This passage was famously quoted by Ronald Reagan with reference to America, but Jesus wasn’t talking about a country; it’s you and me. This statement was captured, preserved and delivered to us by the Holy Spirit so we know who we are as Jesus’ disciples. I think his whole point in this paragraph is to say that God is the one who builds the city, who puts the lamp on the stand — and we are the city and the lamp. “You” are a city on a hill. “You” are a lamp on a stand. And God located us there for a reason. Our job is not to slink down off the hilltop, or sneak under a bowl, but to shine. Yesterday I started off pretty ‘salty’, but lost my saltiness as the day went on. I learned that being humble like salt is actually — surprise, surprise — really hard work. So is being out in the open for everybody to see. But Jesus gives us the ‘why’ that makes the difficult ‘how’ worth it: “that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven.” Just as Jesus came to earth to reveal God to the whole world, we are sent out as salt and light so people can have their hearts turned toward God. It’s not that Jesus wants us to be either more humble or more bright; Jesus wants us to be both. Let’s do our best to stay put and shine today!
Lord forgive me for obscuring the light you’ve put in me. Forgive me for envying other hilltops and lampstands. I know where you’ve placed me and I’ve got to keep on doing good things to light the path for others to you. Amen.