Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)Let your light so shine.—The English form of the sentence is somewhat misleading, or at least ambiguous. It is not simply, Let your light so shine that men may glorify; but, “Thus, like the lamp on its stand, let your light shine. . . .” The motive to publicity is, however, the direct opposite of the temper which led the Pharisee to his ostentatious prayers and almsgiving; not “to be seen of men,” and win their praise, but to win men, through our use of the light which we know to be not our own, to glorify the Giver of the light. We have at least a partial fulfilment of the command in the impression made on the heathen world by the new life of the Church when they confessed, in spite of all prejudices, “See how these Christians love one another.”
Your Father which is in heaven.—The name was in common use among devout Jews, but its first occurrence in our Lord’s teaching deserves to be noted. The thought of God as a Father was that which was to inspire men not only when engaged in prayer (Matthew 6:9), but in the activity of obedience. (See Note on Matthew 6:9.)Matthew 5:16. Let your light — The light of that doctrine which you receive from me, and the light of your holy conversation, so shine before men — Be so evident and apparent unto men, that they may see your good works, and glorify, &c. — That is, that seeing your good works they may both praise God for sending such a religion into the world, and also, embracing your faith, may imitate your holy example, or may be moved to love and serve God as you do, and thereby to glorify him. Here then our Lord tells us, in plain words, what he intended by the comparison before mentioned.
That they may see your good works - The proper motive to influence us is not simply that we may be seen (compare Matthew 6:1), but it should be that our heavenly Father may be glorified. The Pharisees acted to be seen of men, true Christians act to glorify God, and care little what people may think of them, except as by their conduct others may he brought to honor God, yet they should so live that people may see from their conduct what is the proper nature of their religion.
Glorify your Father - Praise, or honor God, or be led to worship him. Seeing in your lives the excellency of religion, and the power and purity of the gospel, they may be won to be Christians also, and give praise and glory to God for his mercy to a lost world.
We learn here:
1. that religion, if it exists, cannot be concealed.
2. that where it is not manifest in the life, it does not exist.
3. that "professors" of religion, who live like other people, give evidence that they have never been truly converted.
4. that to attempt to conceal or hide our Christian knowledge or experience is to betray our trust, injure the cause of piety, and to render our lives useless. And,
5. that good actions will be seen, and will lead people to honor God. If we have no other way of doing good - if we are poor, and unlearned, and unknown yet we may do good by our lives. No sincere and humble Christian lives in vain. The feeblest light at midnight is of use.
"How far the little candle throws his beams!
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.
that they may see your good works: meaning their zeal and fervency; their plainness and openness; their sincerity, faithfulness, and integrity; their courage and intrepidity; their diligence, industry, and indefatigableness in preaching the Gospel; their strict regard to truth, the honour of Christ, and the good of souls; as also their very great care and concern to recommend the doctrines of grace, by their example in their lives and conversations:
and glorify your Father which is in heaven; that is, that when the ministration of the Gospel has been blessed, for the illumination of the minds of men, to a thorough conviction of their state; and for their regeneration, conversion, sanctification, and comfort; they may give praise to God, and bless his name for qualifying and sending such Gospel ministers to show unto them the way of salvation; and that the word has been made useful to them for communicating spiritual light, life, joy, and comfort, , "Our and your Father which is in heaven", is a name, appellation, or periphrasis of God, frequently used by Jewish writers (s); and is often expressed by Christ in these his sermons on the mount.Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)Matthew 5:16. Οὕτω] like a burning lamp upon its stand.
τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν] the light, of which you are the trusted possessors. This shines before men, if the disciples come forward publicly in their office with fidelity and courage, do not draw back, but spread abroad the gospel boldly and freely.
ὅτως ἴδωσιν ὑμῶν, κ.τ.λ.] that they may see the excellent works done by you. These are not their virtues in general, but, in accordance with the whole context from Matthew 5:11, their ministry as faithful to its obligations, their specific works as disciples, which, however, are also of a moral nature.
καὶ δοξάσωσι, κ.τ.λ.] that He has made you fit (2 Corinthians 3:5) to perform such works, they must recognise Him as their author; comp. Matthew 9:8; 1 Peter 2:12. The opposite, Romans 2:24.
τ. πατ. ὑμῶν τ. ἐν τοῖς οὐρ.] see on Matthew 6:9. This designation of God, which Christ gives forth from the fundamental standpoint of His gospel, already presupposes instructions previously given to the disciples upon the point. Observe, moreover, that here it is not ὑμῶν which, as formerly, has the emphasis.Matthew 5:16. οὕτω. Do ye as they do in cottage life: apply the parable.—λαμψάτω, let your light shine. Don’t use means to prevent it, turning the rare exception of household practice into the rule, so extinguishing your light, or at least rendering it useless. Cowards can always find plausible excuses for the policy of obscuration—reasons of prudence and wisdom: gradual accustoming of men to new ideas; deference to the prejudices of good men; avoidance of rupture by premature outspokenness; but generally the true reason is fear of unpleasant consequences to oneself. Their conduct Jesus represents as disloyalty to God—ὅπως, etc. The shining of light from the good works of disciples glorifies God the Father in heaven. The hiding of the light means withholding glory. The temptation arises from the fact—a stern law of the moral world it is—that just when most glory is likely to accrue to God, least glory comes to the light-bearer; not glory but dishonour and evil treatment his share. Many are ready enough to let their light shine when honour comes to themselves. But their “light” is not true heaven-kindled light; their works are not καλὰ, noble, heroic, but πονηρὰ (Matthew 7:17), ignoble, worthless, at best of the conventional type in fashion among religious people, and wrought often in a spirit of vanity and ostentation. This is theatrical goodness, which is emphatically not what Jesus wanted. Euthy. Zig. says: οὐ κελεύει θεατρίζειν τὴν ἀρετὴν.
Note that here, for the first time in the Gospel, Christ’s distinctive name for God, “Father,” occurs. It comes in as a thing of course. Does it presuppose previous instruction? (So Meyer.) One might have expected so important a topic as the nature and name of God to have formed the subject of a distinct lesson. But Christ’s method of teaching was not scholastic or formal. He defined terms by discriminating use; Father, e.g., as a name for God, by using it as a motive to noble conduct. The motive suggested throws light on the name. God, we learn, as Father delights in noble conduct; as human fathers find joy in sons who acquit themselves bravely. Jesus may have given formal instruction on the point, but not necessarily. This first use of the title is very significant. It is full, solemn, impressive: your Father, He who is in the heavens; so again in Matthew 5:45. It is suggestive of reasons for faithfulness, reasons of love and reverence. It hints at a reflected glory, the reward of heroism. The noble works which glorify the Father reveal the workers to be sons. The double-sided doctrine of this logion of Jesus is that the divine is revealed by the heroic in human conduct, and that the moral hero is the true son of God. Jesus Himself is the highest illustration of the twofold truth.16. Let your light so shine …] The word translated “shine” is rendered “giveth light” in the preceding verse. It would be better to use the same English word in both cases. So = “in like manner.” That is final, not consecutive = ‘in order that.’Matthew 5:16. Ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων, before men) sc. all men.—ὅπως, in order that) The force of this particle does not so much refer to the verb ἴδωσιν (they may see) as to δοξάσωσι (may glorify).—ὑμῶν—ἔργα, your works) Your works, not yourselves. The light, not the candle.—τὸν Πατέρα ὑμῶν, your Father) Who has begotten you like unto Himself. In the whole of this address, the Son shows God to us as our Father, and that more richly than all the prophets of old.
 So there follows [That men may See] Your Father; not yourselves: comp. ch. Matthew 6:2.—Vers. Germ.Verse 16. - Matthew only. Let your light so shine; even so let your light shine (Revised Version); οὕτως λαμψὰτω τὸ φῶς ὑμῶν. The Revised Version (cf. Rheims) does away with the misinterpretation suggested by the Authorized Version, "so that," for οὕτως refers solely to the method of shining spoken of in ver. 15, "like a burning lamp upon its stand" (Meyer). Our Lord has here no thought of effort in shining, such as may improve the brightness of the light given, or of illuminating others, but of not concealing what light the disciples have. (For a similar οὕτως, cf. 1 Corinthians 9:24.) Yet remember, "A lamp for one is a lamp for a hundred" (Talm. Bab., 'Sabb.,' 122a) and "Adam was the lamp of the world" (Talm. Jeremiah, 'Sabb.,' 2:4 - a play on Proverbs 20:27). Your light. Either genitive of apposition, the light which you are (Achelis), cf. ver. 14; or genitive of possession, the light of which you are the trusted possessors (Meyer, Weiss). The latter is preferable, as the disciples have, in ver. 15, been compared to the lamp, i.e. the light-bearer. Before men (ἔμπροσθεν τῶν ἀνθρώπων). More than ἐνώπιον, "in presence of," for the position of the lamp "in front of" the people is what our Lord is here emphasizing (cf. John 12:37). That they may see your good works (u(mw = n τὰ καλὰ ἔργα). Your. Three times in this verse. Our Lord lays stress on personal possession of light, personal action, personal relationship and origin. Good works; i.e. of your lives generally (Weiss-Meyer), not ministerially (Mever). "Noble works, works which by their generous and attractive character win the natural admiration of men" (Bishop Westcott, on Hebrews 10:24). And glorify. This is actually done in ch. 9:8; 15:31. St. Peter's language (1 Peter 2:12) is probably due to a reminiscence of our Lord's words. Your Father which is in heaven. The Fatherhood of God is here predicated in a special sense of the disciples, in the same way as the Fatherhood of God is, in the Old Testament, always connected with his covenant relation to his people as a nation (cf. Isaiah 63:16; Isaiah 64:8; Jeremiah 3:4; Deuteronomy 32:6). Our Lord here is not thinking of the original relation of God to being and especially to humanity, in virtue of man's creation in the Divine image (ὁ πατήρ), but of the relation into which the disciples have entered through the revelation of God in Christ; cf. further Bishop Westcott, on John 4:21 (Add. Note) and on 1 John 1:2 (Add. Note); also Weiss, 'Life,' 2:348. The phrase, which occurs here for the first time in St. Matthew (but cf. ver. 9, note), henceforth occurs frequently, becoming of great importance for this Gospel (cf. vers. 45, 48; Matthew 6:1, 9, etc.).
Often misconceived, as if the meaning were, "Let your light shine in such a way that men may see," etc. Standing at the beginning of the sentence, it points back to the illustration just used. "So," even as that lamp just mentioned, let your light shine. Wycliffe has apparently caught this correct sense: So shine your light before men.
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