The Roman writer Pliny talked about the two essentials of life as ‘sale et sole’ – salt and sun i.e. salt and light. And here in Matthew chapter 5, Jesus picks up on those same two images as metaphors for how we are to live as his followers. I love the combination of the two, as it characterises different facets of how we interact with the world around us: one subtle, the other obvious; one preventing decay, the other promoting goodness; but both powerful and influential, often from relatively small amounts/sources.
The focus today, naturally, is on the latter. And the key phrase here is towards the end, just four simple words: ‘let your light shine.’ Not make it shine – just…. let it shine.
The point here is that light inevitably shines. That’s what light does. It can’t do anything else. And if Jesus is the light, and his light dwells in us, then as those in whom Christ dwells, Jesus’ light will shine, in us and through us. Like a town on a hill, it’s hard to hide it.
That doesn’t stop many of us from trying, though! We’ve all had days, or weeks, or seasons when we’d prefer to lie low, when we felt the demands of ‘shining’ were too great to carry. Perhaps through a sense of unworthiness, or weariness, or doubt – but the effect was that we got that big bowl out of the cupboard, dusted it down and stuck it over our light.
I’m sure many of us can relate to that. But the problem is what then happens to the light. In Jesus’ day, all human-created light was essentially fire. Starve a fire of oxygen by concealing it and it eventually goes out. Jesus knew this, so his encouragement to avoid going down that road is not just for his sake, but also for ours. We need the light. We need its warmth and power inside us – to help us to live and to love, to care and to pray, to know peace, joy and purpose. Jesus our light is all of those things to us. In return, all he asks is that we let that light shine.
What a relief to know that we don’t have to make it shine! We just have to let it. May God grant us grace to do just that today. Perhaps we need to repent of trying to cover it up. Perhaps we need to pray for more courage, for a new determination to keep shining. Take heart – God is much more willing to forgive and to bless than we are. He loves that kind of prayer! So let’s seize our courage in both hands, and throw off that bowl. Let the light shine, and who knows how God will bless that today?