Monday, March 5, 2012

This “little?” light of mine…I don’t think so.

Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in Heaven. Matthew 5:16

Oops! I missed that one. When I read this passage early last week, the verse jumped
right off the page. This is one way God speaks to me. When this happens, it is in my
best interest to go back and focus on what I’ve read. God is trying to tell me something.
As I did I realized, that in spite of all the times I had read this portion of scripture, I had
missed the key issue. Uh oh.

Perhaps you spotted it right away. I suggest you read verse again and then ask yourself the question: “What is Jesus emphasizing here?” Have your answer? Let me share with you mine, and where I feel I missed it.

Jesus did not say that our “good works” would bring God glory automatically. He did say that the light He put in us, shining out from us, would illuminate these acts in such a way that they would showcase the glory and goodness of God. My mistake, I thought that good works, and not the light, were the important things.

As I thought this through, it made perfect sense. Many people, organizations, companies, etc. do great works to help people. This is a really good thing. Individuals in desperate situations are assisted because of the generosity of others. However, for the most part, God receives no glory or recognition at all, except from those who are sensitive to His hand working behind the scenes.

Matthew 6:3 contains an often quoted statement Jesus once made: “… do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Found in the first three verses of this chapter is the biblical principal for truly, successful giving.

A few years ago I worked for a large company. Our division was not meeting company’s expectations. My office manager called in a few of us to discuss a possible public relations promotion he was contemplating. The school year was fast approaching and his idea was to put together school supplies for needy children in the areas that our office covered. The parent company was normally very enthusiastic about programs that benefited the community, with the caveat that they received lots of recognition. As we discussed this concept, that important element of the company’s philosophy was developing into a potential stumbling block to the success of this program. The office manager polled those of us in the meeting for our thoughts and ideas. When asked, my response was, “Let’s just do it. This is the right thing to do even if the company does not get the publicity it desires.” The manager was floored. With the exception of one other co-worker, everyone in the room thought I was crazy…and I was. Crazy like a fox! My co-worker and I understood the principle laid out in Matthew 6 and we knew it would work for anyone who applied it. If we, as a company, would be willing to give, without receiving any fanfare or hoopla, God would add His “super” to our “natural” and He would see to it that the company was rewarded in ways that no public relations campaign could generate. Ultimately, the idea was scrapped and nothing happened. What a wasted opportunity.

Why does God want the glory when we do good works? Is He an egotist and in desperate need of always getting top billing? No. God knows most people, including some who call themselves Christians, do not know that He is good. Back in his prime, Oral Roberts was criticized by church leaders for saying that “God is a good God” and for telling people “something good is going to happen to you”. God is blamed for many things He has no part in. People will say that God makes you sick in order to test you or to teach you a lesson. If that is true, wouldn’t it be disobedient to go to a doctor and try to get well? Insurance companies label natural disasters and catastrophic events as “acts of God”, but in reality, they are “acts of the devil”. God is also accused of killing children because He “needs another angel”. Humans are created as a higher and entirely separate class of being than the angels.  With that in mind, why would God demote an innocent child? Why would He need another angel; He already has the majority of them? God wants His glory to be shown so that people will see His goodness and not because He has this insatiable need to be on center stage and to be the main attraction.

This brings us back to Jesus emphasizing our need to let our lights shine FIRST. When we lived in Florida I worked for Z Music. This was the original, Contemporary Christian Music video channel that was aired on television. Among my responsibilities was assisting in designing sets and setting up for production shoots. On several occasion I found myself atop a fifteen foot ladder hanging spots or “cans” on the lighting grid suspended from the studio ceiling. The director knew exactly where each light needed to be placed and what angle it was to be set to. This is the way God works with us. He knows where He needs to put us in order to achieve His desired end result.

Stage lighting is always painted matte, not shiny, black. It is designed to “disappear” when the house lights go down. The equipment does not distract the audiences’ attention from where the action is taking place. When we “cans” let our lights shine we should also disappear into the background.

Anyone on stage cannot look directly into the spotlights; they are are blinding. The source of the light again is not visible because of the brightness they emit. The normal field of vision is reduced to just a few feet. Even the audience can be swallowed up in the brilliant glow, removing potential distractions and restricting one’s visibility. Our good works should be so strongly illuminated by the light we emit that the person experiencing this sees the good we have done and comes to the conclusion, “this must be God!”

So here is our challenge; we cannot be “in the limelight” AND be a “spotlight” at the same time. It just doesn’t work that way. This does not have to be a dilemma. James 1:17 tell us “Every good and perfect gift comes down from the Father of lights…” When we do “good works”, at the Father’s direction, we are simply taking what He gave us and redirecting it according to His plans and purposes. It was never our to begin with. As for the light we give off, that comes from Him also for He is the Father of Light. We are His instruments, used by Him to illuminate what He orchestrates, so that those in the dark can really see Him.

In church we used to sing: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.” However, in Matthew 5:14, Jesus said: “You are the light of the world, like a city on the hilltop that cannot be hidden.” That doesn’t sound like a “little light” to me. Maybe we have underestimated the strength of the light that God has put in us.

I do not wish to shine like a match, a candle, a lighter, or even a flashlight. I don’t want to be in the limelight either. I want to be the spotlight that shines so brightly that I disappear from view and God’s goodness and glory shines forth clearly in the works He gives me to do.

Time to get lit up!

1 comment: