13“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot by men. 14You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. 16Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”
This passage caught my attention yesterday. I have read it many times and heard sermons throughout my life upon it. This time, though, a part of it struck a new chord with me. Perhaps that new chord came because of the studies I have done on the book of Deuteronomy.
In Deuteronomy, Moses told the Israelites several times the LORD chose them as His people because He loved them (Deut 7:6-8, 10:15). He said other nations would call the Israelites wise and understanding (Deut 4:5-7). They were called wise and understanding if they kept the LORD’s statutes. With the LORD’s actions for the Israelites, other nations feared the Israelites and began to consider Yahweh God more powerful than their man-made gods (Deut 28:9-10). The Queen of Sheba visited King Solomon and after staying with him, she declared, “Blessed be the LORD your God.” (1 Kings 10:9 [NASB])
In the Matthew passage of today’s study, Jesus said the people of Israel were a light to the world and a city set on a hill. Geographically, the temple of God resided upon the highest hill in Judah’s territory within Jerusalem, also called Zion. Yet the problem became that the Jews did not lead people to want to know and follow God. Their light did not burn bright like a beacon. The Jews had the geographical advantage of being a beacon. They, too, had the spiritual advantage in that God chose them to receive His love and to share about Him to the neighboring people. Instead, they absorbed beliefs and lifestyles of their neighbors, which meant the light of God did not shine as brightly and did not draw as many people to Him.
Jesus applied this to his followers in this Sermon on the Mount, too. He told His disciples and other believers to be the salt and light to the world. Keep growing and applying the Word and love of God to the world as they lived. Keep shining brightly the love God put in them when they became believers. Geography is not the factor because no matter where a believer lives God’s light, the Gospel, can shine from a person in their words, actions, and attitudes.
The most important part of this verse, though, the part that captured my attention is at the end of verse sixteen. Jesus said in this verse, “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Jesus did not mean we are to do good works to gain praise for ourselves. Rather, we do good works out of the promptings of the Holy Spirit who lives in each believer, because of God. Our works should reflect God’s love and the glory for the good works, words, and attitudes should reflect back onto God and give Him the glory.
What is “giving glory” or “glorifying the Father?” The word “glorify” comes from the Greek word doxazo and means to cause glory – to cause recognition, honor, acclaim, and reverence to go to God. When a believer in Jesus Christ says or does a loving and good thing, the glory should reflect back to God, to His honor. When we do this, we and other people recognize God’s majesty and righteousness and give Him the glory.
When believers let the light that is in them shine to the world around them, they show God’s love for the world. Christians can shine through kind, gentle, compassionate, and loving words and actions. The purpose for is to show God’s love as modeled by Jesus Christ. When people respond with gratitude and praise, believers have two options, to reflect the glory to God or to keep it to one’s self. The first is what Jesus taught His followers. To do the latter makes a person’s pride build and shows self-reliance instead of reliance upon God. It builds up a person’s ego and leads the person to forget the Lord and walk in his or her own way – to walk away from God.
We must understand the love and good deeds or words that came from that love came from God, what He imparted into us through the Holy Spirit of Jesus. No good deed comes from our selves, but from the Spirit as a gift. When we begin to accept and keep the glory we should reflect to God, we begin to consider ourselves as the ones who gave the gift of loving actions or words. We negate the effect of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
Jesus did not teach this. He taught His followers their good deeds, words, and attitudes came from the Father and glory was due back to Him for His grace and love. Jesus meant this above in verse sixteen. We do good deeds, speak kind words, and live with good attitudes – each coming from purity, which humans are not – out of love for the Lord. We obey the promptings of His Holy Spirit out of obedience and with the resources He supplies into our hearts and hands.
Rightness and love do not come from human nature because people are sinful. Paul said everyone is sinful and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). God is the one who forgives the sin of humankind upon each person’s faith in Jesus Christ because of His love and mercy (Romans 6:23). Only by God’s grace do we have love and the other gifts of the Spirit within each believer. So, any praise and honor we receive for good and kind works and words should reflect back to God. He empowers us to do these things through His Holy Spirit. Only God is due the glory!
Today we must decide, as we must every day, if we will give all glory back to God. We can be the living witness for God just as He wanted the Israelites to be and as Jesus called His followers to be in Matthew 28:18-20. Each of us makes this decision for ourselves.
Each day, when you awake, make the decision and pray for the strength to reflect the glory back to God.
Give Him the recognition, praise, honor, and reverence He is due.
 Walter Elwell. “Evangelical Dictionary of Theology,” Baker Academic Publisher: Grand Rapids, 2001.