the art of conspicuous faith
Open Your Bible
Matthew 5:13-16, Matthew 6:1, Colossians 3:12-17
Text: Matthew 5:13-16, Matthew 6:1, Colossians 3:12-17
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.”
– Matthew 5:14
Salt and light—some of us have heard these faith metaphors since childhood, maybe even sung them. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shiiiine.”
We are the light of the world, girls. Jesus says so. And why wouldn’t we let it shine? If light dispels darkness, shouldn’t we hold it up as high and bright as we know how? (“Hide it under a bushel—NO!”)
But here’s the thing—just a little while later, in this very same sermon, we’ll hear Jesus instruct believers not to flaunt their faith in unmeaningful ways, as the Pharisees were apt to do. Don’t fast so that other people notice; don’t pray loud so that others will hear, He’ll say (Matt. 6:6, 16-18). How then, are we to understand His declaration that we are people who should stand out, simply by nature of following Him?
I’m a person who appreciates rules. I don’t do well with the unexpected, and rules help me know what to expect—of myself and others. So when there’s a gray area, I feel squirmy and unsure. I want to slide to one end or the other, just to avoid the uncomfortable middle ground. In this case, I’d appreciate if Jesus would just tell us—how much faith flaunting is too much? How brightly should our light shine? Are we talking giant, to-the-moon, car dealership spotlight bright, or 100-watt light bulb bright? Some clear to-do’s here would be helpful.
Yet, the whole point of the Sermon on the Mount is to address the heart behind the actions, the motivation behind the direction. Following Jesus is more art, less science. It’s not about following rules, it’s about following Him.
Saltiness and brightness are not qualities the salt and light determine about themselves. They are qualities determined by their maker. Their purpose is placed within them; it’s not something they muster up by trying harder. The art of living and loving in a way that stands out is simply a matter of being who God created us to be. The light we shine should be His light. The flavor we add should taste distinctly of the Gospel as He taught it.
I love this reminder in Colossians 3: “Don’t be angsty about it. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts. Do all for the glory of God” (paraphrased, obviously). Finding the artful balance of not hiding our light under a bushel yet not blaring it on the street corner, Pharisee style, does not have to be stress inducing. Really, it comes down to one simple question: Who is getting the glory? If it’s you, sweet Sister, it’s time to close the door and get quiet before the Lord. But if it’s Him? Keep shining.