You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, 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 in heaven (Matt 5:14-16).
Schedule-challenged, I hustle across my client University's campus for an 11:30 a.m. interview with a candidate for a mid-level management position. I've read his CV. It reveals he's an equity partner in a prestigious international firm. His career to date has been a steady progression of major roles in institutions and firms. He has many years to go before retirement.
The position he is applying for would be no more than entry level for a man of his education at the start of his career. His experience over-qualifies him. The professional references have checked out, but there must be a catch. I am determined to find out the hidden issue that must be driving him from the corporate heights.
I find the applicant to be personable as we start, then I go straight at him. "Why do you want a job that has far less status and responsibility than your current position and only a small fraction of your current salary?"
His answer is direct. "I have two children in elementary school. I travel constantly for my work. The demands on my time are constant. I need a change. I believe I can do this job well and still be home with my family every night. I am willing to work for a lot less to gain that." He goes on to say that his wife and he want to watch their children grow up together in a community of faith.
I am moved by the man's answer. Long ago, Christ intercepted my career trajectory and I have never been the same. I recognize the hunger for peace and rest in his eyes.
Later on in the search committee, others express surprise he would accept such a reduction in status and salary. I say, "I was cynical at first, but his answer is credible. We talk a lot here about valuing ‘wholeness’ and ‘well-being.’ Yet, we are cynical when someone wants to live out those values at a material sacrifice. Who is really the honest party in this?"
My question is greeted with knowing looks and rueful laughter. To paraphrase Isaiah, "I am a workaholic and I dwell among workaholics" (Isa 6:5).
Those of us gathered in the conference room are believers. We claim the life of Jesus Christ as our own. Jesus' life is the shining blessing of "light for all people . . . The true light, which enlightens everyone. . . ." (John 1:4, 9)
By the true light, I mean the power to dispel and overcome darkness (John 1:5). Jesus shares that power with us. He says, "You are the light of the world." When we look to Jesus as the source of salvation and grace we reflect his shining glory (2 Cor 3:18).
An awesome power energizes us as "the light of the world." The Apostle Paul writes that the same God, who commanded, "Let light shine out of darkness" at the commencement of Creation, shone in our hearts through the resurrection of Jesus "to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6). We are set alight by the same power who makes the sun rise every morning and sets the heavens ablaze in the night.
Just as our eyes follow the path of sunlight or moonlight on the water until it leads us to look up to its source, so Jesus says the deeds of love and care we do for others leads them to see the glory of the Father reflected in us.
We learn a song in childhood that comes to mind here – "This Little Light of Mine," with lyrics by Ava Burgeson Christiansen and music by Harry Dixon Loes (1920):
This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. This little light of mine, I'm going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
All around the neighborhood, I'm going to let it shine. All around the neighborhood, I'm going to let it shine. All around the neighborhood, I'm going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine. Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
Don't let Satan [blow] it out! I'm going to let it shine. Don't let Satan [blow] it out! I'm going to let it shine. Don't let Satan [blow] it out! I'm going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.
The song picks up a rather odd statement of Jesus when he tells us of our witness to his shining light. He says, "No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but (puts it) on a lampstand, and it gives light to the whole house" (Matt 5:15). This seems so obvious it doesn't need mention, but Jesus always has something in mind with his similes and metaphors.
A bushel basket is used for harvesting, gathering, storing and measuring productivity. These are activities of work – human effort and endeavor. Work is a gift of God (Eph 2:10; 2 Thess 3:10-12). It is his intention that we enjoy what he gives us to do as a way of life (Ecc 3:10-13).
Working for our own pride and purposes is futile. Solomon wrote, "Apart from him [God] who can eat or find enjoyment. For to the one who pleases him God gives wisdom and knowledge and joy; but to the sinner he gives the work of gathering and heaping, only to give to the one who pleases God" (Ecc 2:24-25, emphasis added).
Baskets are instruments for "the work of gathering and heaping." Sinners are those who go it alone without God. We are sinners when our gathering and heaping become ends in themselves in our pride of self and desire for success and security.
We are tempted to hold on to the products of our labor and measure and compare them against the work of others as our standard of living. The pride of doing and the lust of having sends us in search of bigger baskets. Then sometime, somehow, the desire for more leads us to place our work basket over the light because we need the space and the stuff. We think we know what we are doing enough to handle the dark.
But the purpose of the light isn't to help us work more and harder. We cannot even claim credit for the good deeds Jesus says we'll do to reveal the glory of the Father. We were "created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand as our way of life" (Eph 2:10).
The light of Christ illuminates the work of God performed by us through his grace to his glory. His light is indispensable. Our work is not.
The downwardly mobile job applicant I described at the beginning of the story recognized the soul's tipping point when we set our work basket over Christ's light because of our obsession with gathering and heaping. He repented, set aside his basket and turned back to the light. Who does this kind of thing so contrary to the world's values? A follower of Jesus does.
The man's witness has already encouraged others to repent of their basket envy and look up at Jesus. "The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it" (John 1:5).
"Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm going to let it shine. Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6851