Hiding In Plain Sight
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus begins with what we know as the beatitudes. It’s then in 5:13-16 that He says “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven.”
From that text you move through Jesus correcting some misrepresentation and misuse of the law until you reach chapter six. Its then that Jesus speaks of the necessity of secrecy in benevolence (Matthew 6:1-4), prayer (Matthew 6:5-14), and fasting (Matthew 6:16-18).
Is this a contradiction within Jesus’s sermon? On the surface one might conclude that it is being that in chapter 5 He teaches the goal is to live in such a way that others SEE our good works and give God glory and then in chapter 6 we are to practice those acts of discipleship in ways that no one can see or know.
Of course we know that Jesus, the master teacher, isn’t contradicting Himself or talking in double standards but rather He’s teach a double mandate. When we fully appreciate both passages we see that the two actually compliment and support one another and are dependent upon one another.
In the salt and light illustration in Matthew 5 the light is readily visible. That’s the point and idea. Our lives are reflecting His light so as to guide others to Christ and in this dark world our Lights should always be shining. But salt on the other hand isn’t actually seen. When you cook with it you can tell that it is there by experiencing it but you can’t see it. Even when applied to the meal on your plate it isn’t easily visible but rather experienced. This already speaks to others experiencing the blessings of benevolence and prayers on their behalf.
Understanding the need for secrecy in chapter 6 helps us see that it is for our sake and benefit. Jesus is teaching us the way to experience the true joy of benevolence is not by sounding a trumpet for giving without the press release. Our personal relationship with God isn’t strengthened by all the words we lift up that everyone can hear but rather the heart felt personal petitions we can offer that only He can hear. And our drawing nearer to God and clarifying our priorities is done through acts of self-discipline such as fasting and again by the individuality and personal nature of it.
Most of all it produces the desire character that our Lord desired we possess. A character that He not only taught but lived while on this earth. Let’s live as those hiding in plain sight and conduct ourselves in such a way that always shows God’s love and grace to others and brings Him glory and not ourselves.