So when you give something to a needy person, do not make a big show of it, as the hypocrites do…they do it so people will praise them…but when you help a needy person, do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it. Matthew 6: 2-4
[Y]our light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5: 16
Which is it? Should we shine our good deeds before people or keep them secret? That depends.
The reason for “shining our lights” is not so others will praise us, but so they’ll praise God. We don’t make our own light. It comes from Jesus, the light of the world. We just reflect it. When we’re God’s channels, He gets the praise, not us.
On the other hand, as Jesus warned, when hypocrites help those in need, they make sure others know about it. That’s hogging the spotlight for themselves, not reflecting God’s light. There’s no room for love when people are caught up in themselves. It doesn’t help when we’re “helpful” but never let others forget it. The word self-righteousness was invented for a reason. We want to make ourselves right, instead of remembering that, apart from God, we can do nothing.
It’s human nature to want recognition. There’s nothing wrong with that. A healthy sense of self-esteem develops as we receive validation. Even so, we have worth just because God loved us into existence. Although we may feel good about ourselves when we are of service to others, our self-esteem is inherent in our being children of God, not in accumulating brownie points.
So when should we let our lights shine? Probably when we’re most afraid to. Maybe God gave us a nudge to serve in a certain way and we’re afraid what we have to offer won’t be good enough. We can trust that if God wants us to shine our light, he will empower us to be of service. We’ll be reflecting His goodness and love. There is no ego involved in using our gifts when we thank the Giver. We shine whenever we’re reflecting the Light of the world.
Prayer: Lord, make me a channel of your light and love.
Reflection: How can you shine your light today?