For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 5:13-16; Salt and Light (Word Study)

It seems significant that, in Matthew 5:16, Jesus commanded his followers to “let your light shine before men.” Notice that Christ didn’t command people to “make your light shine before men,” or even to “ignite your light before men.”

The emphasis appears to be on our response to the light, not our manufacturing or maintenance of it.

The Greek text of Matthew 5:16 lends credence to this perspective. The word used for “let” is apolúō, and it means literally “to unbind” or “to let go free.” It was used in the context of releasing a prisoner from jail, or taking chains off a captive.

In the spiritual sense, the light of Christ that burns within us is a flame that cannot be extinguished. We did nothing to ignite it, we can’t make it brighter or dimmer—it already burns brighter and farther than we can perceive. But, if Jesus’ metaphor is accurate (and I believe it is), we can actively try to keep it captive, hiding his light of goodness from those around us, perhaps through inauthentic lifestyles or deliberate sinfulness.


Our job, then, is not to attempt to create light for Christ, nor to try to stoke greater intensity of his spiritual light. Instead, we are to let his light shine through us—to focus on living a transparent daily relationship with him that “lets go free” the warming light of his Spirit into our world.


Works Cited:

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