Let Your Light Shine For The Glory Of God (Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1)

I was recently reading Matthew 5, and verse 16 stood out to me. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men; that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (WEB). As I was reading that, my mind immediately went to Jesus' warning that we should not do our "acts of righteousness" in front of other people in order for them to notice and glorify us.

"Wait, these verses seem to be saying different things," I thought, at first. But after pondering it for a moment, I realized that these verses do not conflict; in fact, they complement each other. Let me show you how.

Quest For Glory

It should come as no surprise that God seeks to be glorified. And rightly so, because he really is worthy of glory! His character and faithfulness, his acts of deliverance and restoration, and his persistent grace all make him deserving of recognition and thanks.

We are created in God's image (see Genesis 1:26), and thus we are similar in nature to God, even though we aren't God himself. Just like God, we are able to express faithfulness and grace to others, and we also seek glory in some way or another.

What Is The Correct Attitude?

What Jesus is trying to explain in Matthew 6:1 is not that we shouldn't be kind to others, or even that we shouldn't be kind in front of others, but rather that our motive for acting in righteousness should stem from a gratitude for God's compassion toward us and a desire to make God's glory known, and not from a selfish desire for our glory alone.

That's exactly what Jesus was also trying to explain in Matthew 5:16 - that we should be public in the way our "light" shines in front of others. The "light" in us that shines is the compassion, grace, faithfulness, and mercy that God equips us to express to our fellow humans.

How To Act In A Way That Glorifies God

The question then remains, "How can I act in a way that glorifies God and not just myself?" The answer varies in different circumstances, so the key is to pay attention to the Spirit of God as he guides you in each situation.

Sometimes, it's best to keep things hush-hush when you are doing good to others for God's glory. For example, a friend once bought me a ticket to travel to another country (I love traveling!), but they asked that I keep it anonymous who it was that gave the ticket. In that situation, God was leading them to keep their gift a secret, so they did the right thing.

Other times, it may be appropriate to be a bit more open in the way you bless people in Jesus' name. For example, I was once at a gathering and someone there complimented me on how great my hoodie looked. As I thanked him for noticing, I felt the Spirit of God prompt me to give that person my hoodie. So I did, and while I was giving it, someone else was watching this happen. Was in necessary in this situation to keep the blessing a secret? No. When God gives us an instruction, sometimes it is good for others to be there when we carry out God's instructions, because it blesses those who watch, too.


The key to remember is that our acts of kindness toward others are to be done for the glory of God, whether they are done in secret or in public. That's how you can let your light shine so that others see and recognize the works of God.
About The AuthorJonathan Hostetler lives in southern Pennsylvania. He grew up in a strong Christian family, dedicated his life completely to Jesus at the age of 9, experienced a spiritual breakthrough at the age of 15, and is now in his mid twenties, joyfully serving Yahweh and sharing Yahweh's message of salvation and hope both on the internet and in person.
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