“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
As we endeavor more and more to glorify God in our lives, we have to realize what is implied in doing so. What it means to let our light shine and why it is important. Below I am sharing commentaries by Matthew Poole, John Calvin, and Matthew Henry, who dissect this verse a bit for us, so we can better apply and understand it.
As always, I hope that this verse and the thoughts from Christians before us will bless you in your Christian walk and help you to apply Scripture to your life.
Our Saviour now plainly tells us what he intended by the comparisons before mentioned. Let the light of that doctrine which you receive from me, and the light of your holy conversation, (the latter by the following words seemeth to be here principally intended),
so shine before men, be so evident and apparent unto men,
that they may see your good works; all sorts of good works, whatsoever I have commanded or shall command you; and as I command you, and in obedience to such commands, otherwise they are no good works;
and glorify your Father which is in heaven. You are not in your good actions to aim at yourselves, to be seen of men, as Matthew 6:1, nor merely at doing good to others; good works are to be maintained for necessary uses, Titus 3:14, but having a primary, and principal respect to the glorifying of your Father; for, John 15:8,
Herein is my Father glorified, if ye bear much fruit: not that we can add any thing to God’s essential glory, but we may predicate and manifest his glory; which how we can do by good works, if they proceed from mere power and liberty of our own wills, not from his special efficacious grace, is hard to understand.
Our Father is said to be in heaven, because, though his essential presence filleth all places, yet he is pleased there, more than any where, to manifest his glory and majesty.
16. ‘Let your light shine before men’ After having taught the apostles that, in consequence of the rank in which they are placed, both their vices and their virtues are better known for a good or bad example, he now enjoins them so to regulate their life, as to excite all to glorify God. That they may see your good works: for, as Paul tells us, believers must, “provide for honest things, not only in the sight of God, but also in the sight of men,” (2 Corinthians 8:21.) The command, which he gives shortly afterwards, to seek concealment and a retired situation for their good works, (Matthew 6:4,) is intended only to forbid ostentation.
In the present instance, he has quite a different object in view, to recommend to them the glory of God alone. Now, if the glory of good works cannot be properly ascribed to God, unless they are traced to him, and unless he is acknowledged to be their only Author, it is evident, that we cannot, without offering an open and gross insult to God, extol free will, as if good works proceeded wholly, or in part, from its power.
Again, we must observe, how graciously God deals with us, when he calls the good works ours, the entire praise of which would justly be ascribed to himself.
Secondly, For what end our light must shine—”That those who see your good works may be brought, not to glorify you (which was the things the Pharisees aimed at, and it spoiled all their performances), but to glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
Note, The glory of God is the great thing we must aim at in every thing we do in religion, 1 Peter 4:11. In this centre the lines of all our actions must meet. We must not only endeavor to glorify God ourselves, but we must do all we can to bring others to glorify him.
The sight of our good works will do this, by furnishing them,
1. With matter for praise. “Let them see your good works, that they may see the power of God’s grace in you, and may thank him for it, and give him the glory of it, who has given such power unto men.”
2. With motives of piety. “Let them see your good works, that they may be convinced of the truth and excellency of the Christian religion, may be provoked by a holy emulation to imitate your good works, and so may glorify God.” Note, The holy, regular, and exemplary conversation of the saints, may do much towards the conversion of sinners; those who are unacquainted with religion, may hereby be brought to know what it is. Examples teach. And those who are prejudiced against it, may hereby by brought in love with it, and thus there is a winning virtue in a godly conversation.