Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.—Matt. 5:16
Letting our “light shine before men” allows them to see our “good works,” the beauty the Lord has worked in us. To see good works by us is to see Christ in us. That’s why Jesus says, “Let your light shine.” It is not something we create or make up, but something we allow the Lord to do through us. It is God’s light; our choice is whether to hide it or let it shine.
We allow God’s light to shine through us so God will receive the praise. Our intent should be that in what we are and what we do, others may see God and “glorify [our] Father who is in heaven.”
Our good works should magnify God’s grace and power. That is the supreme calling of life: glorifying God. Everything we do is to cause others to give praise to God, the source of all that is good. The way we live ought to lead those around us to glorify our heavenly Father.
However, when what we do causes people to be attracted to us rather than to God, to see our human character rather than His divine character, we can be sure that what they see is not His light. Make sure your deeds point people to God, the author of those deeds.
As we’ve seen before, some will respond to your good deeds with derision and persecution, but others will shower praise on you for your acts of Christian character. How do you respond to those who give you credit for your servant’s heart and faithful obedience? How do you deflect that praise to God so it doesn’t nestle down in your own heart?
The Purpose: to Glorify God
Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (5:16)
The word (kalos) for good that Jesus uses here does not so much emphasize quality-though that obviously is important-as it does attractiveness, beautiful appearance. Letting our light shine before men allows them to see our good works, the beauty the Lord has worked in us. To see good works by us is to see Christ in us. That is why Jesus says, let your light shine. It is not something we create or make up, but something we allow the Lord to do through us. It is God’s light; our choice is whether to hide it or let it shine.
The purpose of letting our light shine and reveal our good works is not to bring attention or praise to ourselves but to God. Our intent should be that, in what we are and in what we do, others may see God in order that they may glorify [our] Father who is in heaven. Jesus’ speaking of the Father emphasizes God’s tenderness and intimacy, and speaking of His being in heaven emphasizes His majesty and holiness, as He is pictured dwelling in the splendor of His eternal holy home. Our good works are to magnify God’s grace and power. This is the supreme calling of life: glorifying God. Everything we do is to cause others to give praise to the God who is the source of all that is good. The way we live should lead those around us to glorify (doxazō, from which we get doxology) the heavenly Father.
When what we do causes people to be attracted to us rather than to God, to see our human character rather than His divine character, we can be sure that what they see is not His light.
It is said of Robert Murray McCheyne, a godly Scottish minister of the last century, that his face carried such a hallowed expression that people were known to fall on their knees and accept Jesus Christ as Savior when they looked at him. Others were so attracted by the self-giving beauty and holiness of his life that they found his Master irresistible.
It was also said of the French pietist Francois Fenelon that his communion with God was such that his face shined with divine radiance. A religious skeptic who was compelled to spend the night in an inn with Fenelon, hurried away the next morning, saying, “If I spend another night with that man I’ll be a Christian in spite of myself.”
That is the kind of salt and light God wants His kingdom people to be.
16 Jesus drives the metaphor home. What his disciples must show is their “good works,” i.e., all righteousness, everything they are and do that reflects the mind and will of God. And people must see this light. It may provoke persecution (vv. 10–12), but that is no reason for hiding the light others may see and by which they may come to glorify the Father—the disciples’ only motive (cf. 2 Co 4:6; 1 Pe 2:12). Witness includes not just words but deeds; as Stier (Words of the Lord Jesus) remarks, “The good word without the good walk is of no avail.”
Thus the kingdom norms (vv. 3–12) so work out in the lives of the kingdom’s heirs as to produce the kingdom witness (vv. 13–16). If salt (v. 13) exercises the negative function of delaying decay and warns disciples of the danger of compromise and conformity to the world, then light (vv. 14–16) speaks positively of illuminating a sin-darkened world and warns against a withdrawal from the world that does not lead others to glorify the Father in heaven. “Flight into the invisible is a denial of the call. A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him” (Bonhoeffer, Cost of Discipleship, 106).
 MacArthur, J. (2008). Daily readings from the life of Christ (p. 96). Chicago: Moody Publishers.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1985). Matthew (pp. 246–247). Chicago: Moody Press.
 Carson, D. A. (2010). Matthew. In T. Longman III & D. E. Garland (Eds.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Matthew–Mark (Revised Edition) (Vol. 9, p. 170). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.