How To Be A Christian Without Embarrassing God

Letting Your Light Shine

by David Padfield

In the Sermon on the Mount our Lord told His disciples, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." (Matt. 5:14-16).

"You are the light of the world" is one of those statements which should cause us to lift up our heads and make us realize what a glorious thing it is to be a Christian. The apostle Paul told the Ephesians, "For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8). We not only have received the "light" of the gospel of Christ, we have become transmitters of that light.

Our light is meant to be seen by men. A Christian should be the same in his place of employment, the schoolroom or on the golf course as he is in the assembly of the saints. Jesus did not say, "You are the light of the church," but rather, "You are the light of the world." As we live in the world, our Christianity should be evident to all. Our good deeds ought to draw attention, not to ourselves, but to God.

Sometimes, instead of "letting our light shine," brethren prefer to "shine their lights" in the face of others—forcing the world to look at them. Instead of behaving as "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people" (1 Pet. 2:9), some revel in the idea of standing out in the crowd—they become a living "Church Lady" skit from Saturday Night Live.

Our Lord warned His disciples that when they did charitable deeds they should not "sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men" (Matt. 6:2). The deed was not wrong—drawing attention to it was.

phylacteries jewish

Jesus assumed that His disciples would fast. There is nothing wrong with fasting in itself. Hypocrites in the days of Jesus would often "disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting" (Matt. 6:16). When disciples of Christ fast, they are admonished to "anoint your head and wash your face so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place" (Matt. 6:17-18).

The scribes and Pharisees performed "all their works they do to be seen by men" (Matt. 23:5). As an expression of their love of being seen by men, they would "make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments." Phylacteries were small leather boxes bound on the "left arm, toward the heart, and on the forehead. They were capsules containing on parchment four passages of Scripture: Ex. xiii. 1-10; xiii. 11-16; Deut. vi. 4-9; xi. 13-21. That for the head was to consist of a box with four compartments, each containing a slip of parchment inscribed with one of the four passages The phylactery of the arm was to contain a single slip, with the same four passages written in four columns of seven lines each. The black leather straps by which they were fastened were wound seven times round the arm and three times round the hand. They were reverenced by the Rabbis as highly as the scriptures" (Marvin Vincent, Word Studies In The New Testament, Vol. I, p. 123). The wearing of phylacteries was to remind the wearer of his obligations to the law. The authority for wearing them was purely traditional. The Pharisees made the leather case rather large, that their "righteousness" might be more visible.

Such activities as the sounding of a trumpet, the disfiguring the face or the wearing of phylacteries do not cause men to glorify God—they serve only as an embarrassment to our Heavenly Father. I submit to you that Christians today often act like the Pharisees in the days of Jesus. They often create their own "traditions" which serve only to draw attention to themselves. In this article we want to examine several manifestations of this attitude.

Our Clothing

God commands us to wear "modest apparel" (1 Tim. 2:9-10), but He does not command us to dress like freaks from the last century. The Amish of the country are known by their clothing—it is certainly modest and unassuming, but they go out of their way to stand out in society and draw attention to themselves.

Friend, there is nothing wrong with wearing nice clothing. Lydia, the Christ convert on European soil, was a "seller of purple" (Acts 16:14). The clothing she sold, true sea purple, was worth twice its weight in gold. Lydia was evidently a woman of considerable means. I can not picture one selling extravagant clothing while dressed in rags.

The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 was adorned in "Fine linen and purple" (Prov. 31:22). Yes, God commands His people to wear "modest apparel," but you do not have to dress like a refugee from a concentration camp who was clothed by the Red Cross in order to be pleasing to God.

Our Language

God condemns "coarse jesting" (Eph. 5:4), but He does not ban all humor. Coarse jesting would include vulgar or lewd joking or language. Humor is not sinful—our Lord used humor in His teaching (Matt. 23:23-26). Humor is necessary for a normal life. If you can't laugh at yourself other folks will do it for you.

Our Prayers

God commands us to pray and give thanks for our daily bread (Matt. 6:11), but He does not expect us to put our piety on display. I have been in noisy restaurants with Christians who insisted on praying loud enough for everyone in the restaurant to hear them. To those in the restaurant the brother leading in prayer was just as pitiful a sight as the Pharisee praying loudly on the street corner while wearing a large phylactery.

In noisy settings there is nothing wrong with praying in silence. In noisy public restaurants can you honestly say that you are concentrating on the prayer that is being offered by others? How can you say "Amen" to a prayer you could not even hear or understand?

Our Money

God commands us to be good stewards of what He has entrusted to us (1 Pet. 4:10), but He does not command that we live like monks. If you have labored honestly in life there is nothing wrong with enjoying the fruits of your labor. Solomon repeatedly tells us that we "should eat and drink" and "enjoy good" in our labor (Eccl. 2:24, 3:9-13, 5:18-20). The working man is to "enjoy the good of all his labor—it is the gift of God" (Eccl. 3:13).

If you have been successful in your work you need to realize that "God has given riches and wealth" to you and that your financial success is "the gift of God" (Eccl. 5:19). God does reward honest labor. If you have not obtained your wealth through theft or deception—if you have not robbed God or man—then you deserve to enjoy the fruits of your honest labor.

Enjoy your life, but don't forget about God! Remember, however, that all of your life is overshadowed by the judgment. Solomon said, "Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth; walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes; but know that for all these God will bring you into judgment" (Eccl. 11:9).

Our Music

Jesus warns us to be careful "how we hear" (Luke 8:18), but he doesn't command us to become tone deaf and burn our radios.

Parents often light a losing battle with their children over the music they listen to. The volume or the beat of the music are really inconsequential. The words of the songs are where we need to focus—you might not like the volume of the music, but that is not a religious issue (however, it might be a matter of maintaining sanity in your home).

There is no way anyone can listen to music promoting promiscuity, vulgarity and drug use without it affecting them. Teenagers often claim the music has not affect on them, but such is simply not the case. The more they hear vulgarity the more callused they become to it.

What we meditate on is what we become. The godly individual will delight "in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night" (Psa. 1:2).

Our Calendar

God prohibits the church from establishing religious holy days (Gal. 4:9-11), but He does not prohibit you from reading the calendar or observing the traditions and customs of our culture.

No one knows for certain when Christ was born. Most of the religious world today celebrates the birth of Christ on December 25, a date that was not accepted until the fourth century A.D.

Christmas is observed as a religious holy day by many while others look upon it merely as a secular holiday—even atheists get off from work on Christmas! I look upon Christmas just as I do any other civil holiday-it has no religious significance to me at all. On civil holidays we decorate our house and usually have a big meal with friends or family. Some Christians leave you with the impression that if you smile during December you have somehow sinned! They deny that one can acknowledge a civil holiday without making religious overtures. I don't know of anyone who can get through December without "observing" Christmas in some way, whether it is only a meal with one's family or traveling with the children while they are out of school.

Individual Christians do have the liberty of observing special days "unto the Lord" (Rom. 14:4-8), but they can not bind these special days upon others.

Our Worship

God commands order in the assembly (1 Cor. 14:40), but He does not require that our worship services look like a funeral service.

The Israelites were commanded to serve God with "joy and gladness of heart" (Deut. 28:45-48; cf. 1 Kings 8:66; Ezra 6:22). The Psalmist said he would "offer sacrifices of joy" unto the Lord (Psa. 27:6). After his sin with Bathsheba, David pleaded with God to restore the joy of his salvation (Psa. 51:12).

The word of God is to be received with joy (Matt. 13:20, 44). When Philip brought the word of God to Samaria "there was great joy in that city" (Acts 8:8). When the Ethiopian eunuch arose from the waters of baptism "he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:39).

Our worship services are to be conducted "decently and in order" (1 Cor. 14:40). Unfortunately, many congregations today are so "orderly" that sincere worshipers are almost embarrassed to say "Amen" at the preaching of the word! The ones who should be embarrassed are those whose Christianity has caused their soul to shrivel up and die. I have preached in places where the brethren looked liked they were weaned on dill pickles and baptized in vinegar. If your religion makes you that miserable you do not have Christianity—just a poor substitute. Let us worship decently and in order, but with joy in our heart!


God wants spiritual fruit, not religious nuts. We are living in the midst of people who dwell in spiritual darkness. Lost souls will never find the light anywhere in the world except from you and me and the gospel we preach. Our friends are watching us. Are our lives a silent rebuke to them?

Do you live so as to lead them to come and ask, "Why is your life so peaceful and full of joy?" If they ask, we can tell them that wondrous, amazing news the "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. 1:15). Jesus is "the true Light which gives light to every man who comes into the world" (John 1:9). Christ came to give us life and make us the children of God.

Christians are the light of the world. As a Christian remember that "you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light" (Eph. 5:8).