Although I’m an avid consumer of podcasts, when I’m not seeking enrichment, one of my guilty pleasures is ‘Paternity Court.’ It just never ceases to amaze me! One thing I’ve noticed in the comments section is the tendency to attribute the behaviour of the plaintiff or defendant to their parents. For example, it’s her “mother’s fault” that she’s like this, or he’s been “raised well” which is why he’s taking responsibility for a non-biological child. Basically they’re implying that the apple never falls far from the tree.
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
This verse is highlighting that on the basis of your actions, onlookers should be able to tell that you belong to God. You act like Him so much that you couldn’t possibly belong to anyone else. Giving ‘glory’ is synonymous with giving ‘praise.’ Therefore, they are praising God because of your character. For me, this conjures up an image of a Father who is bursting with pride because your actions haven’t gone unnoticed, and someone felt impressed to mention it, directly. In other words, they recognise that your good works have something to do with how God has ‘raised you’, and thus, they are giving Him credit.
Your actions are either a source of pride or shame.
The key thing to note is that, in the mind of the onlooker, ‘good works’ point to God. Evidently, ‘bad works’ would clearly point to someone else, namely, Satan. So imagine the confusion in the mind of someone who expects you (as God’s child) to act one way… but you’re the opposite. If people know you’re a Christian, but you’re simultaneously happy to live an ungodly life, then you’re basically dragging your Father’s name through the mud. Although they might not say it, they’re probably wondering how a supposedly perfect God has kids which are so unlike Him – is He even a good parent?
Imagine living a life that is so godly that it literally inspires people to say something to God. As Christians we’re usually very keen to preach the Word, but not necessarily live it. Nobody asks or forces the onlookers to praise God on account of your behaviour. They’re compelled to. It seems as natural as congratulating a parent on what a great job they’re doing with their 2-year-old prodigy.
Your actions are a testimony.
Of course since everyone is born with free will, it’s illogical to ‘blame’ the parent (earthly or heavenly) if their child ‘turns out bad.’ They might have done everything possible, but their child still makes negative decisions, regardless. However, if your actions have the potential to point someone to God, aren’t you concerned about what your behaviour is saying? People might not realise why you seem ‘different’ (they might just think you’re weird), but if multiple people are weird in a consistent way there has to be a common denominator. God!
- The light is the same, but it shines differently – every person is unique, but the source of light (Jesus – John 8:12) is the same. How you share the light using your particular gifts or talents is what makes it your light. If God intended for there to be uniformity in how Jesus is shared we would all have the same gifts/talents. We don’t. Therefore, you must ask yourself how you can personally share your light to bless others. What are you good at? What do you enjoy? Where do those points intersect? i.e. activities that you are good at, which you also enjoy, and can use in a ministry-related context.
- Good works are an extension of shining your light – helping homeless people, donating to charity, volunteering etc. are typically referred to as examples of ‘good works.’ However, those are ways of shining a light, not necessarily your light. In other words, there are good works attached to how you share your light. There’s nothing wrong with the examples above, however, you might be called to shine your light in a different or nuanced way. Don’t focus on generic good works; focus on sharing your light (which is accompanied by specific good works).
- God gets the glory – Jesus didn’t say that people will see your good works and glorify you. Don’t be tempted to solicit or accept undue praise. Always remind others (and yourself!) of the source of your good works.
Needless to say, it’s imperative that you have a relationship with, and a correct understanding of, Jesus, or you’ll be shining the wrong/incomplete light.
People always want to establish cause and effect. That includes wanting to know why you are the way you are – the most logical explanation being upbringing. Saying you’re a child of God shouldn’t be stated casually. Your actions will reflect positively or negatively on your Father’s parenting (whether you intend them to or not). Therefore, I hope you do your best to make Him proud!