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Parables Part 2 - Light


Matthew 5:13-16; Mark 4:21-23; Luke 11:33-36

“You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven…Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear… “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a secret place or under a basket, but on a lampstand, that those who come in may see the light. The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness. Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

While this parable does not necessarily follow the pattern of a typical parable, it does use an every day object, a lamp or light, to illustrate a point or teach a lesson. In the case of not putting a lamp under a basket, this parable appears in three of the Gospels with a different application in each. Some may see this as a contradiction, I see it as Jesus using this same illustration to teach multiple lessons, something every preacher/teacher does at one time or another. The main idea of the parable is easy for us to get, if you are in a dark place and need artificial light, you do not engage that light and then put it under something so no one can see. For example, I tend to lose things and because I am old and have poor eye sight I often rely on the flashlight built into my iPhone to find things. Would it make sense if in the process of using my phone’s flashlight to find something that I put it in my pocket? Well, of course not, you don’t light a lamp and put it under a basked, you don’t turn your phone’s flashlight on and put it in your pocket. No, light is meant to be seen and to help others see, and in these three passages we are given three reasons for it.

First, we are meant to let our light shine so others can see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven. More to the point, we are to let the light and life of Jesus, imparted to us by His Holy Spirit, shine through our lives, through our actions, so that others can see Him in us and glorify God as a result.


Second, a light is not put in a cellar, as Mark puts it, but is kept out so that secrets can be revealed. In other words, the light of God working in and through us, or the light of God’s Word (Psalm 119:105) at work in our lives, families and churches is there to illuminate those things which we need to see. Perhaps it is sin in our lives, perhaps it is discernment to help us identify false teachings or false prophets, maybe it is wisdom and guidance for a decision or situation we are facing, perhaps it is something else. Whatever the case, we need the light of God in order to see.


Finally, Luke’s gospel presents this teaching as a warning about whether we let light or darkness into our lives by what we see. Psalm 101:3 tells us “I will set nothing wicked before my eyes.” If we let darkness in, or set darkness before our eyes we let that into our hearts, minds, and souls. However, if we set light before our eyes then we will be filled with light and our whole body will be filled with light, or as the ESV puts it we will be wholly bright, according to Jesus.

Whether we are dealing with our own desire to shine the light of Jesus in to the dark world around us, or we need His light to illuminate something in our lives, or we are talking about if we let darkness or light into our own lives, the outcome will be similar. We don’t hide light, that is not the point of light, that is not why God created light to begin with. God gave us light so we could see, but we have to be willing to look!

Image Borrowed from: The African Gourmet

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