Some Ways of Hiding the Light

J.R. Miller

"You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in Heaven!" Matthew 5:14-16

We are in this world to shine! Jesus told his disciples that they were the light of the world. He did not say that they were to carry lights, as one carries a lantern; he said they themselves should be lights.

He warned them also against HIDING their light setting the lamp under a bed or under a bowl. He said the purpose of a lamp was to pour its light freely through the room! Every Christian life should be a light, shining to make the world a little brighter. Yet there are many people who allow their light to be hidden or obscured.

There is the covering of shyness which hinders the full shining of many lives. There are people who love Christ, but shrink from a public confession of him. Their feelings are too sacred to be revealed. No doubt there is a shyness of which we cannot speak. It is a proper enough reserve which shrinks from laying bare one's inner spiritual experiences. Still there is danger that shyness may hide or obscure the light of Christian confession. We should see that the lamp is set out on the stand of a sincere confession, where it will shine undimmed for all about us.

True Christian life is love. We are taught to be long-suffering, to be patient, to love our enemies, to forgive those who have done anything against us, that when reviled we should not revile again, and that we should put away malice, anger and clamor, and be sweet-spirited. But some people hide this light of love under the sinful coverings of resentfulness, unforgiveness, bitterness. They are touchy and take offence easily. They hold grudges. They are not thoughtful. They are quick-tempered, hasty in speech, lacking affectionateness and sympathy. They may have a heart of love but it seems as if there were surrounding it something which prevents the outflow of the love. We should let the light shine out to bless the world.

Another of the coverings which obscure the light of Christian life is egotism, self-conceit. The Christian religion teaches us to be modest and humble in our demeanor. We are not to insist upon always having our own way, not to think that none but we know anything well or can do anything in the right way. Yet sometimes we find a man, a professed Christian man, so full of vanity that he considers no other one's opinion as of any account. He is upright, truthful, honorable, inflexible in his integrity but the lamp of his good life is hidden under the bowl of an intolerable self-conceit. He treats other people and their suggestions almost with contempt. He is dictatorial and despotic, unable to co-operate in good work with others. Some magnificent men, with splendid powers, are rendered almost useless to their fellows by this offensive spirit. We should set the lamp of our life on a candlestick of self-forgetting humility.

Another of the bowls which some Christians put over their lamp is a fretful, complaining habit. Light is clear and white. Christian life in its divine beauty is all brightness. Peace and joy are essential characteristics of it and they should be in the life of every Christian. But some people cover this white, pure light with the habit of discontent. How many of us have allowed the spirit of worry to creep into our lives! How many of us allow ourselves to murmur and to find fault with almost everything in our lot! Such habits dim the shining of the light that should ray out from our lives. Fretfulness spoils spiritual beauty. Anxiety hides the light of peace. If only we would strip off these unfit coverings and let the light of Christ in us shine out, it would add tenfold to our influence as Christians. Even in life's sorest trials, the light of the lamp burning within should shine out undimmed.

Another covering which obscures the light in too many lives is the lack of courtesy. We do not realize how much of life's influence depends upon manners. There are those who are true Christians, honest, loyal to truth, liberal in giving, useful men. Yet in their manners they are so ungentle that they mar, oft-times almost destroy, their influence for good.

We need to study the art of living as to its manner, that the beauty in us may not be obscured. We need to train ourselves to thoughtfulness, kindliness, sweet Christian courtesy and affectionateness in our bearing toward all. Our manners should be the interpretation of our Christian life. Perhaps we may say in excuse for lack of refined courtesy, that our heart is better than our manners; if so, how will people know that it is? If our manners are lacking in gentleness and sweetness, we are hiding our light under a bowl, and it is not shining out clearly to bless the world.

These are some of the coverings which too often obscure the light of Christian life. If these seem little things, mere faults of manner or expression, it should be remembered that far more than we are aware are our lives hurt in their influence by what we call little things. Those who see us and judge of our characters, cannot look into hearts to behold the bright light that is bur there under all its obscuring; they must judge us from what shines out. We must take care therefore, that nothing shall hide or dim the brightness of our lamp's shining. We must express ever in our disposition and our conduct, all our behavior and bearing, the peace that is in us, letting the Christ within shine out in undimmed radiance, if we would fitly honor our Lord.