In my biblical studies, one of my professors taught on the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — one God, three persons. It is a difficult concept to wrap the mind around and I don’t intend to do that now, but something in his teaching comes back to me often.
Within the Trinity there is mutuality, equality, oneness; each is for the other. The Father points us to Jesus, Jesus points us to the Father; the Holy Spirit teaches us about Jesus, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit. Each person of the Trinity is eager to have the other parts noticed.
“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.Matthew 5:14-16
When I light a lamp, it is for me, to illuminate my way or so I can see what I am doing. Every evening, I turn the lamp on beside my bed so when I turn the overhead light off, I can see my way to bed. When I am tucked under the covers, I turn my light off. I am not concerned that someone else might need it.
Jesus said our good deeds are the light of the world. They should shine out, not for personal benefit, but for others. Our deeds should point people to Jesus, to cause praise to rise to his name.
This concept was countercultural then; it is countercultural today. So often, I do what I do hoping to be recognized, applauded, “liked” (on social media – oh come on, you check that, too!) Living in obscurity is not anyone’s goal ever. And yet maybe it should be.
Jesus is incredible. He knew who he was (God), where he was from (eternity), where he was going (heaven bound) and yet he lived in relative obscurity and unknown. Repeatedly, he asked people not to tell others what he had done for them. He walked away from fame and notoriety to take his place among the poor and needy. His good deeds were a light for others, to point them in the right direction. They were never for himself.
Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.” Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this.”Matthew 8:1-4
In these passages, I learn that Jesus didn’t live for himself. Everything he did pointed to his Father. Concern for receiving credit for his deeds did not exist as he focused solely on revealing God to us, giving us cause to praise our Creator.
I learn that Jesus is willing. Deadlines, appointments, activities were never so pressing that he couldn’t stop to meet a need. He stops to listen, to intervene because he is willing; he desires to set us free.
Scripture says Jesus “radiates God’s own glory and expresses the very character of God.” (Hebrews 1:3) My deduction: God is willing; he stops to hear the cry of my heart and transform my situation. And his motives are pure; he reveals himself to me in as many ways as possible so that I might in return love him and light the way for others through my good deeds.
I am the light of the world and the way I live is the bulb. Is your lamp lit? Is it lit for you (fame, notoriety, accolades) or for others (pointing them to Jesus, showing them a hopeful alternative)?