I must have been in Sunday School when I first learned the song. It was one we loved to sing because there were hand movements and parts we got to shout out. “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.” The one thing I could be sure of is the light, though it was small, and though it did not look like much, it was mine, all mine. And not only that, but that little light was given to me for a purpose. I was only too happy to let it shine. Now as the song goes on you learn there is opposition to the light, there are temptations I did not fully understand. There was the desire one might have to hide it under a bushel, to obscure the light, to prevent it from doing its job. But not me, I was only too happy to let it shine. And there was the reality of Satan lurking around ready to blow it out at any time. “Don’t let Satan blow it out, I’m gonna let it shine. Let it shine, let is shine, let is shine.”
And of course, there was truth to the little song. Light has been given to the children of God, light that is to shine forth. In fact, you are declared to be the light of the world. And when Jesus says this it comes right after He has declared you are the salt of the earth. Salt and light describe the people of God. Salt and light describe you. All this flows from the work and words of Christ. Saint Matthew records all this for us as part of Jesus’ great sermon on the mount. It is a sermon which did not begin with the qualifications of the children of God, or with taking an inventory to make sure you are up to snuff, that you have all the right characteristics for salt and light. No, the sermon began with these words, “Blessed are the poor in Spirit for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven. Blessed are those who mourn… Blessed are the meek… Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” The blessings of Christ, freely given, set you apart, they give what they declare you to be.
Here we find the peculiar calling of the Christian: You are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Now Jesus does not call you to try and act like salt, but instead says you are salt. Salt it crucial to our lives and it is useful for a great many things. Without salt, armies would not have been able to carry their rations long distances and explorers would not have been able to sail to new lands. Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” (Matthew 5:13) He is saying how salt that has lost its taste is not salt, there is no such thing as non-salty salt. As salt, you do what salt does. As Christians, you do what Christians do. This is akin to what James said when he wrote faith without works is dead. Or when Jesus said a good tree bears good fruit. Faith produces works, trees produce fruit and salt is salty. As Christians you are something this world needs. You have purpose.
So, Jesus goes on and says you are the light of the world. Part of your purpose is to let your light shine. In fact, He says, “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16). This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine! Just as non-salty salt is not salt, so a light that does not shine is not light. He has called you and blessed you and given you the gift of faith and hope and calls you to let the light shine for others. Let others see your light, see your good works so they too might give glory to your Father who is in Heaven.
This is great news; you are light and salt. You are called and charged with a great way to live in this age. Think of it, your life is full of meaning. You have something to give to others, to better the world in which we live, to direct glory to our Father in Heaven. So, get going. Don’t hide it under a bushel, don’t let Satan blow it out. Let it shine, let is shine, let it shine.
If only it were that easy, right? I mean, we want our good works to shine in the darkness, we want to direct people to give glory to our God because of our deeds but let us be honest, are we up to the task? Are you able to conduct yourself in such a way? This, you see, is where the doubts and the questions start swirling around, because not only do you know yourself, you know your own faults and shortcomings, you know other Christians as well. You know salt that does not act like salt and light which does not shine all that bright. You know the failings of your brothers and sisters in Christ and so, perhaps, you are not too bold to let your light shine
And there are outside forces opposing your light as well. If the light you let shine is a word of forgiveness and love flowing from your mouth, if it is compassion and a warm embrace for the lonely and hurting in this world, there is no short supply of those who will mock your attempts and dissuade you from such actions. The evil foe will constantly be in your ear whispering to you, “Why bother? Who are you to forgive anyone? Who are you to go out of your way like that? It won’t make any difference. They won’t find God through you. Just keep it to yourself. Let them be. Go about your day and don’t worry too much about all this salt and light nonsense.”
You see, we do not have to pretend like we are all shining wonderful examples of salt and light to change the world. You know full well you are not. You are not going to faithfully do all light ought to do in the world. We would feel more comfortable hiding our light under a bushel. At least then Satan will have a more difficult time blowing it out. But if we try and let it shine, if we hold it up for the benefit of others, they are liable to see all the glaring problems with it; our glaring problems, our faults and failures. Then Satan will have a much easier time blowing it out.
Now your Lord knows this, of course. He knows you cannot fulfill the commands of the Law. He knows being a blessing to the world might seem a bit much for a bunch like us. Afterall, we struggle with the most basic challenges to our faith. We struggle to love and forgive and treat others as we would have them treat us. There are countless peopled we have hurt and failed to help when we could. We regularly choose what is in our own best interest over the benefit of others. So, the Lord has stepped in. He fulfills the Law. He completes the task. He owns the victory and then He gives it all to you.
Your Lord is the Alpha and Omega. He is the fulfiller of the Law and the giver of forgiveness. He sees your sin and your failure. He knows your doubts and your fears. And He says to you “Blessed are you. Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. Blessed are each and every one of you.” In this blessing He reminds you one more time how you are the salt of the earth and the light of the world because of His work, because of His promises, because of His love.
Your failure or success does not change His love. Your fear and worry do not stop His compassion for you. Rather, He assures you this day that you remain His blessed children, you remain gifts of His light meant to shine in this world. And in His love, in His forgiveness, let your light shine, my friends. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.