Jesus instructed, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Just like a lamp isn’t put under a basket, our good works aren’t supposed to be hidden.
Here’s the problem: we often struggle between wanting our good works to shine and worrying that we’ll feed pride if they do. Our apprehension isn’t unfounded. After all, we should be wary of the enticing quest for personal glory; we should serve joyfully in unseen ways.
But Jesus calls us to shine—to live as illuminators in a dark world. And He tells us how to—through good works that are seen by others. True humility is not hiding our good works from the world, but using them to point to our King. We don’t live righteously so that we might be seen (Matthew 6:1), but so that He would be.
Our Good Works Should Encourage the Body
As the Body of Christ, we are called to stir one another up to love and good works. When we share about opportunities God’s given us to serve, it inspires others to consider ways He’s equipped them to. When we share how God’s led us to repent of materialism and give more joyfully, it challenges others to evaluate whether they are bearing the fruit of generosity. When we share how God’s helped us overcome fear and boldly proclaim the gospel, it builds faith in others to declare His glories too.
When we allow our light to shine within the church, God ignites the church to shine more brightly in the world. He created us to be stirred and strengthened by one another so that we can burn together for the glory of His name.
This is not to say that we are to parade our good works. We shouldn’t shout about every check we write for charity or post pictures every time we demonstrate mercy. But our lives should be so dramatically transformed by the gospel that we couldn’t hide our good deeds if we tried. And our hearts should be so humble that we’re willing to be open with our Christian friends, small groups, and churches, because we want them to shine more brightly too.
Our Good Works Should Be a Witness to the World
Jesus was clear: faithful discipleship will be followed by ridicule, rejection, and some measure of persecution. No servant is above his master. However, when our lives are marked by good works, it removes wind from the sails of those who might despise us.
If we’re known to be helpful, humble, and caring in our workplaces, our belief in a Biblical sexual ethic will remain offensive to our coworkers, but it will be less of a barrier to the gospel because they’ve experienced the love of the Father expressed through us.
If we forgo our wants to give generously to the poor, if we reorient our schedules to prioritize service to those in need, if we use our voices to speak up for the oppressed, our preaching of the gospel will be scorned by many, but at least they’ll know our concern for their souls is genuine since we’ve shown concern for their bodies too.
Good works magnify the Good News.
We Should Shine Like Spotlights, Not Chandeliers
Consider it this way: we are called to be spotlights, not chandeliers. Both serve the purpose of giving light, but they are different in nature. If we live like chandeliers, hanging each good deed on us like a crystal intended to enhance our magnificence, our good works might serve people, but they’re ultimately rooted in self-love.
We are called to be spotlights. When a spotlight shines, nobody looks at the fixture, they look at the object the spotlight is fixated on. Our good works aren’t meant to illuminate us, but to illuminate our Father in heaven. Each good work the world sees should direct their eyes to behold our God.
Thinking of it this way helps us escape the fog of overthinking and rescues us from the counterfeit humility. It frees us to just do the good works to which we’ve been called—not for our good and glory—but for our neighbors good and our Father’s glory.