Let Your Light Shine Before Men without Practicing Your Own Righteousness

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus said “Let your light shine”, but don’t practice your righteousness before men. How do we do tell the difference?

by Heather Russell
by Heather Russell

In the Sermon on the Mount (where Jesus spoke to His disciples, not the crowds that also followed Him) a couple of the subjects that Jesus addressed seem contradictory at first blush. They both relate on the surface to the way we act in public, before other people. He said, on the one hand:

You are the light[1] of the world…. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see[2] your good[3] works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14, 16)

Jesus, on the other hand, gave the following negative instruction:

Beware of practicing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 6:1)

Jesus went on to provide the following examples:

“So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:2-6)

How do we let our light shine before men without practicing our righteousness before men?

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Let Your Light Shine

by Nicholas Drendel
by Nicholas Drendel

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountain. The disciples followed and gathered around Him when He sat down. So began the Sermon on the Mount.

Though the text does not clearly say, I believe it was just Jesus and the disciples on the mountain. Jesus was sitting, and the disciples were around Him. there was no room for the crowds to gather, and they could not hear Him as He sat with the disciples around Him.

The Sermon on the Mount, therefore, was not for the crowds, but for the followers of Jesus.

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