"Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16, The Message Bible)
By BISHOP ROBERT HAYES JR.
More than 50 years ago, President John Kennedy uttered these words in his inauguration speech: "My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country." That single line changed the way that an entire generation viewed itself, the nation, and the world. Consequently, hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, began volunteering for the Peace Corps and other newly created social programs designed to make the world a better place.
I was a young teenager, and that speech confirmed my desire to give my life in service to others. Ministry was the path I chose.
However, a half-century since that speech, I’m seeing a troubling trend in society. It seems to me that many people disregard, even totally abandon, the spirit of generosity and commitment that President Kennedy advocated. The prevailing attitude in much of society appears to be one of self-interest and greed. The question that dominates today is: "What’s in it for me?"
As a follower of Christ, I have learned God loves those who expend themselves sacrificially to help others. Over and over, the lessons of the New Testament teach us that if we "lose" ourselves in compassionate concern for others, we find the significance in life for which we yearn.
Let me state it on a more basic level. In order to get, you must give; to reap, you must sow. If you are going to take something out, you must be willing to put in something. There are no shortcuts, no one-way streets that lead to what you desire most in life.
When you ask, "What’s in it for me?," you also must ask yourself, "What am I willing to give?"
The antidote for selfishness is "What’s in me for it?" In your church work, your marriage and other relationships, even in your prayer life, you must ask: What can I give or bring that will make my life and those around me better?
In mission to others you should search yourself to discover the gift, the light that God has given you that will shine so others may see God in you. Life is a gift for which you should be grateful, and in every area of living you need to be guided by the question: What do I have that I can give that will make a difference?
Jesus dealt with life not only as a mystery and a gift to him, but also as a claim upon him. Life makes a claim upon you as well.
You have reaped the benefits of God’s mercy and grace! The very least you can do is turn around and pass on to others the blessings that have come to you.
In a mountain village long ago, a wealthy patron was trying to decide what legacy to leave his village. Finally, he decided to build a church for the community. No one saw the complete plans for the church until it was finished.
When the people gathered for the unveiling of the new church, they were amazed at its beauty and splendor. However, someone noticed an oversight.
"Where are the lamps?" the observer asked. "How will the church be lighted since there are no windows?"
The patron pointed out a large number of brackets recessed in the walls. Then he gave each family a lamp, to bring with them when they came to worship.
He explained, "Every time you are here, the area where you are seated will be lighted. When you are not here, that area will be dark. This will remind you that if you do not come to church, some part of God’s house will be dark."
Jesus said you are the light of the world, and he challenged you to let your light shine. However bright or dim, each light is important. When you do not let your faith be seen, a part of God’s kingdom suffers in darkness.