Being the Light of the World-Matthew 5:14-16

Jesus declared His divine identity when He described Himself as “the light of the world”. During the Sermon on the Mount, He gives us an extraordinary responsibility when He states that we, too, are to be the light of the world. Being the light of Christ is not only a beautiful gift but an amazing opportunity!

Being the Light of the world- woman in jeans and striped shirt standing in secluded area of trees and grass at night shining a flashlight into the sky

Light of the World Scripture 

John 8:12

Jesus was teaching in an area of the temple where candles burned to symbolize the pillar of fire (the presence of God) that led the Israelites through the desert. Appropriately, He said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Notice He said He was “the light of the world,” not “a light” and when we follow Him, we continually live in His light.

He uses this same metaphor of light in the Sermon on the Mount:

Matthew 5:14-16

“You are the light of the world. 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 that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:14-16.

The Light of the World Meaning 

So what does it mean to be “the light of the world?” Jesus wants us to allow His light within us to shine upon those around us. 

Our lives should reflect His light and draw people to Him.

Cities sitting atop hills are prominent parts of the landscape. We can see them for miles around, especially in the dark when the lights are shining.

Likewise, our faith should be a prominent and noticeable part of our lives.

Jesus asks us not to hide our faith and light by keeping it hidden “under a basket.” We are to be beacons of light to a dark world desperate to find their way out.

The purpose of letting our light shine through good deeds/works is to give all the glory to God, not heap it upon ourselves. They should see Jesus in us in the way we act and speak.

What Does it Mean to Walk in Darkness?

In God’s Word, darkness symbolizes spiritual corruption. It is a mind not “set on things above” (Colossians 3:2), but on Satan’s lies. 

It is sin without repentance; a lifestyle that allows sin to reign with no thought of God or the consequences of their actions.

Sin broke our beautiful fellowship with God when it entered the world. Physical and spiritual death were now our destiny.

From the beginning, however, God had a plan to conquer this spiritual darkness. The prophet Isaiah spoke this prophecy concerning the birth of Jesus:

“Those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” Isaiah 9:2 ESV.

Jesus, the Light of the World, would come down from heaven, live among us as a human man, and sacrifice Himself for our sins. 

His saving grace is indestructible and powerful- the blood of Jesus and His resurrection defeated death. 

Notice Jesus followed His “I AM” statement in John’s Gospel with a promise: if we follow Him, we will never walk in darkness. He alone is the source of true light and the light of eternal life. 

When we follow Him, He illuminates our path; He guides us in how to live. He has removed the darkness of our sin.

In Him “there is no darkness at all.” (1 John 1:5)

We are called to shine God’s light into these dark places.

Walk as Children of Light

“For at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” Ephesians 5:8 ESV.

It seems the world, now more than ever, needs shining lights to infiltrate the darkness. Even so, the darkness of evil will never overcome the marvelous light of Jesus.

What does this way of life look like? How can we be a light in the darkness to others? Paul gives us a hint right away in verse 9:

“For the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth.” Ephesians 5:9.

Our actions and speech need to reflect the Holy Spirit within us-love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

A true Christian life produces much fruit!

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5 Ways to Let Your Light Shine

Light is a requirement to sustain life, so letting your light shine is critical! One of the great things about light is that is illuminates everything it touches. The brighter the light, the wider the reach. Shine bright!

Through our Words

We need to know His truth and be able to share it with others. When we share, we speak in love, not as a “resounding gong or clanging cymbal.” (I Corinthians 13:1). Our words should not be boastful or proud.

Our speech should be full of grace and humility. As we speak, always use “gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Through our Actions

Jesus said, “The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me.” John 10:25. Likewise, let others see His light through our actions.

Cultivate a servant’s heart. “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39) is a good place to start. Look after the poor, the fatherless, the oppressed, the needy. (Psalm 82:3-4) Share what you have. Look after the orphans and widows. The list is endless. 

Through our Attitude

God has given us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26). Everything we think, say, and do flows from it. (Proverbs 4:23) When our hearts swell with His love, we see others as He does.

His compassionate spirit becomes ours. It becomes our desire to shine with mercy and grace and radiate His peace.

●Pray to Be a Light for Others

Pray for the opportunity to shine. Ask Him for His vision in healing the world around you.

Pray that the Holy Spirit would renew and transform you to be more like Jesus every day. Pray to show the Fruit of the Spirit in all your interactions.

Be Authentic– Share your struggles and trials and how your faith sustains you. Seeing your hope and peace amidst sorrows and in difficult situations reflects a bright light onto Him, our protector and strength.

You are the Light in the Dark 

“For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness’, made his light shine in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:6 ESV.

Jesus is counting on us to be the light in this dark world. He created us to meet the needs of others just as He did.

Not only that, but He has given us everything we need to accomplish His mission.

He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9) He is counting on us to find those who are stumbling blindly around in the dark and show them His Light.

My sister and I walked through some water-filled caves in Mexico one year while on vacation. It was an amazing experience. At one point, our guide turned off his flashlight and asked us to be completely silent in the complete darkness and reflect on what it felt like.

This was a darkness our eyes would never get used to; they would never accommodate to see anything around us, no matter how long we were there. It gave me a new appreciation of the entrapment darkness creates.

We needed light to dispel the darkness in that cave. Without it, we were trapped in that cave.

People of Light

You are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness.” 1 Thessalonians 5:5.

“Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain.” Philippians 2:14-16. ESV.

We, too, were once stumbling or frozen in the dark. Now we have His great light within us to produce what is pleasing to Him. 

He gives us His power and strength to use this light and go up against the dark.

Use your God-given talents and His help to go out and shine. He will use what you give for the glory of the Lord.

Don’t hide your light by going along with the crowd, being afraid to speak up with truth, or ignoring the needs of others. 

Can you think of someone who lives out their faith and shines absolutely radiantly for Christ? I can think of a few blazingly bright stars. Their common thread was their servant oriented and humble nature.

They weren’t CEOs, financially rich, or famous. Don’t you love that God uses anyone with a willing heart? All He is asking is for us to be a shining example of His love. He’ll take care of the rest.

Let Your Light Shine Prayer

Dearest Lord,

Thank you for pulling me out of darkness and into Your Light. Search my heart, O God, and test me for anything that would dim this light within me. Give me confidence and strength to be transformed into a bright and steady light for you. Help me recall your teachings by the power of the Holy Spirit. Give me the words to draw others to you. Give me your eyes to see those around me as you do. Fill me with your grace, mercy, and love so that it overflows to those I meet. I want to shine like a city on a hill for you, O God. To you be all the glory forever!  Amen

Blessings of Light!


All Scripture is taken from the NIV unless specified otherwise.

Would you like to go deeper into this topic? Here is a free Reflection Question worksheet for you to download and print; click on the image below.

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2 thoughts on “Being the Light of the World-Matthew 5:14-16”

  1. Amen. We are the light of this world where people live in darkness. I am deeply moved and encouraged just as I read this post. Thank you so much.

    Iove this: “Jesus is counting on us to be the light in this dark world. He created us to meet the needs of others just as He did.” This is what I desire to do wherever I am.- to be the light Sometimes it’s not easy to meet the needs of others but we really just have to take the step of obedience.🙏❤️

    God bless you always Ma’am AnnMarie 🙏❤️

    1. Thank you, Leny. He will give us the strength to do His work in this dark world, if as you say, we are obedient. Writing this post made me realize that I need to do a better job of shining the light of His Fruits of the Spirit in my life. God bless you!

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