Luke 8: 16 – 18 A lamp on a stand
‘No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.’
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As with all parables, this brief piece of teaching can be understood in more than one way. The first time I read it this morning, it said this to me.
You must allow the light of Jesus’ teaching to illuminate your inner spiritual life. Have a good look round. See what needs cleaning.
Are you hiding sin in your heart? Be warned that it’s not going to stay hidden – everything will be disclosed; everything will be brought out into the open. The light will enable you to see it and deal with it.
When you allow the light to illuminate your inner life and take action to change the things that the light shows up as needing change, then you will become more receptive to further teaching.
Then I read a few commentaries, and found that every one of them understood the light from the lamp to be the truth of Jesus shining out from the believer. That makes sense to me, especially in the light of the words “so that those who come in can see the light.”
By this understanding, we take the Christian as the lamp and God as the person lighting the lamp. As Christians we are called to show our faith to others; we should be open about what Jesus has done for us. We shouldn’t hide the light under a clay jar (which could represent food and drink, as this is what the jar would have probably held) or under the bed (which could represent idleness). By this understanding, verse 18 becomes a short version of the parable of the talents, telling us that if we allow the light of Jesus to shine in our lives then we will experience more of it. On the other hand, if we don’t let it shine, stifling or concealing it, then we will lose even the little light we have.
There’s no need to choose between the two different interpretations; both have things to teach us about how we should live. One is looking inwardly, the other outwardly. In fact, of course, we need to do both. Our inner spiritual life is important; we need to let the teaching of Jesus illuminate it. If we don’t, we will have little to offer other people. And our outreach to others is also important. If we aren’t showing Jesus to our neighbours, by our actions certainly, and often by our words, then our spiritual life will wither and die.
This teaching seems very uncompromising to me, and hard to do. If my understanding of what you want is wrong, please correct me. If it is my attitude that is wrong, please help me to change.
In Jesus’ name, Amen