Shining Lights and Burning Bushels

I sang a song in Sunday School growing up called “This Little Light of Mine.”  If you are familiar with the tune it is probably making its way into your head right now, and if you’re like me, you’ll be singing it for about the next 12 hours (or at least until you can scrub it out of your brain).  I make no apologies, I’m currently on a 48-hour “This Little Light of Mine” bender, and it’s getting ugly.  

This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine,
I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

This inspired tune for tots was written after some well-meaning soul read the words of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. 

Matthew 5:14-16  

“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.”

The King James Version translates the word in verse 15 “bushel” instead of “basket,” and the composer of this anthem was undoubtedly a KJV disciple.  “Basket” just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  

Hide it under a bushel, NO!
I’m gonna let it shine. 
Hide it under a bushel, NO!
I’m gonna let it shine. 
Hide it under a bushel, NO!
I’m gonna let it shine. 
Let it shine,
Let it shine,
Let it shine.

Growing up singing this song, I’ll admit that I always felt a great deal of conviction.  As we inserted hand motions it got even worse.  I knew as these words left my lips and lodged in my frontal lobe that I was guilty of hiding my faith under a basket.  I felt a similar guilt (conviction, maybe?) whenever I heard a sermon on “witnessing” or when I sat on a plane (especially as an aspiring man of the cloth) and dared to nod off instead of getting my shine on for the people unlucky enough to be seated in 17A and C. 

As I study this text as well as the rest of the New Testament, I think there’s more to “letting it shine” than simply striking up a conversation with a stranger and steering it spiritual. 

A lot more.

I think as we look at the disciples who originally heard these words of Jesus, and the life together that they formed in the early church, we get a glimpse of how the words of Jesus can be put into practice.   

The title of my sermon this morning is “Shining Lights and Burning Bushels,” but my text isn’t from the Sermon on the Mount.  It’s from Acts 2, and it shows us the DNA of the early church.

Acts 2:41-47   

So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls.  And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.  And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.  And all who believed were together and had all things in common.  And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need.  And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.         

Talk about letting it shine.  People were getting saved en masse and day by day more were being transformed from darkness to light.

We live in a highly individualistic culture.  I think we have a tendency to let it bleed into our churches as well.  We talk about and emphasize our “personal relationship with Jesus,” our “individual walk with the Lord,” finding “God’s will for my life,” and when we sing This Little Light of Mine we think about, well, this little light of mine.  Was that was Jesus was saying in the Sermon on the Mount?  When He said “You are the light of the world” was He talking to just you?  Or just me?  Or was He talking to us?  When I read Acts 2, Ephesians 2, and the rest of the context of the New Testament, it seems really clear that Jesus was telling us to let it shine.

Does this mean that maybe “hiding it under a bushel” is less an individual struggle and more a struggle against individualism?  The bushels I tried to burn as a kid were things like feeling butterflies in my stomach when I went to witness, or being ashamed of talking about Jesus in front of my friends, or the immature tendency I had of wanting to talk and behave like everyone else so that I could be cool.  But perhaps the real bushels we should think about torching are isolationism, self-sufficiency, greed, materialism, lack of commitment to the local body, neglect of the fellowship, and individualistic compartmentalization of our faith. 

Hide it under, NO…  We’re gonna let it shine.

About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
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