Jesus’s Manifesto: The Sermon on the Mount
Lent day 5 (Monday) — Let It Shine!
In the same way, let your light shine before people, so they can see the good things you do and praise your Father who is in [the heavens].
- Recap: Jesus has just said that we, his prophetic community, should shine our light in the world indiscriminately, lighting up the house so that people can see reality.
- Our light also illuminates “the good things” we do.
- But remember, the light isn’t “the good things you do.” Jesus says “Y’all are the light of the world.” People see the good things we do in the light of who we are. I still love the song “This little light of mine,” but the light isn’t mine, it’s ours. And it isn’t what we do. It’s who we are.
- Jesus isn’t just exhorting us to do more good works and service projects. He’s exhorting us to be the kind of community that expresses a luminous spirit. We shine something more than conventional religiosity.
- Jesus sets up the next two chapters with this verse. He’s going to talk about how we should hold ourselves to a higher standard. “It’s not enough that you don’t kill people,” Jesus will tell us. “I want you to avoid anger. It’s not enough that you give alms; I want you to do it without seeking credit for it.” These are examples of what he means by shining a light.
- Yes, the church should be a moral exemplar to the world, but Jesus will spend most of chapter six talking about how we shouldn’t chase praise with our good works. “Take your prayer into the closet,” he will say, “instead of posturing on the street corner.” All of this is meant to draw attention not to ourselves, but to the God who works among us. If I haven’t said it enough, I think this makes the most sense if we think about how Jesus defines the church as a prophetic community —one whose lifestyle brings clarity and throws the world into relief.
- This is the first time in the Sermon on the Mount where Jesus refers to God as “Father.” Our relationship to God is less like subjects to a king and more like children to a parent. Notice also that Jesus mentions the heavens again—where our reward is great, where God’s will is done perfectly in the movement of the stars and planets.
- Again, “the heavens” are not where we go when we die, or some other realm. C.S. Lewis liked to point out that the heavens are not “up there” while we are “down here.” Earth is actually moving through the heavens. There are stars beneath us as well as above. So when we talk about “Our Father in the heavens,” we should have the sense that our Beloved is not in some far off neverland, but envelopes us on every side. We are suspended in the heavens and in God as if we were a drop of water in the ocean.
I recommend going back and rereading the verse slowly. Chew on the words. Which part of the verse makes you linger?