Hiding your light under a bushel
Isaiah 42:1-8; Matthew 5:14-16
Jesus used comedy. A lot. Jewish comedy. Naturally.
The juxtaposition of contrasting images was central to Jesus’ communication. He would often show up the absurdity of our lives by placing two incongruous states side by side. The resulting shock is the stuff of comedy, and of good preaching!
Here’s today’s comic imagery:
“Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” (Matthew 5:14-15)
Imagine the scene:
“Hello? Lantern Magic? I’d like to register a complaint. I just bought your LampLight 3000 with high hopes. It says on the box “It giveth light unto all in the house.” But I have to say it’s as gloomy as ever in here… What’s that? Yes I filled it with oil… and I trimmed the wick… and I lit it just like the instructions say… Yes well, truth be told, it started out brilliantly. It was everything I’d hoped for. Until I put it under my bushel… My bushel… No it’s Old English, it means bucket. Yes bucket… Well I couldn’t find a lamp stand so I thought I’d improvise… What’s that? On top of the bucket? My goodness, no. How reckless! Dear me, I wouldn’t dream of placing it so precariously. No, no I’m keeping it safe underneath… Yes underneath the bucket… What do you mean it’s not the lamp that’s dim?”
Well however ridiculous we find this situation, Jesus says this is the problem with Christians. Which means, if you follow Jesus, it’s your problem and mine. We are made to shine. We are the light of the world. We ought to be luminous – our very lives driving out darkness and drawing people to the Father. Here’s how Jesus paints the positive picture of what we’re made for:
“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:16)
Jesus beat Take That to the punch by about 2000 years: here’s His advice “Let it shine!” Don’t “Stoke the fires”. Don’t “Try and burn a bit brighter.” Don’t “Lighten up.” Just Let it shine. When we’re released from the bushels under which we usually hide, the Christian has a radiant quality which will attract the world. It’s not about getting “on fire for Jesus.” We are light in Jesus.
Therefore what questions would Jesus ask us as a church seeking to reach out to a dark world? Surely questions like:
Why do you keep yourself to yourself?
Do you realise the light that you are?
Are you afraid of drawing attention to yourself?
Do you realise what’s possible when your light is allowed to shine? (Matthew 5:16)
What are the safe places and times in which you hide from others (your bushels)?
How as a church do you keep the light of your fellowship from the watching world?
As the complaints department from Lantern Magic would have said: The problem is not with the lamp, the problem is where you’re putting it.