As Christians we are all aware of Jesus’ instruction to “let our light shine” (Matthew 5:16), but even though we realize our light is “reflected from Christ,” it can still be a little daunting, especially for those new to the faith, to think of ourselves as “lights.” We read the biblical stories of great men and women of faith, we see some of the things accomplished through those of faith in our own age, and it’s pretty clear that we are still at the candle power stage compared to what may seem to be the spiritual floodlights God has used and is using now.
But if we do feel any lack of confidence in this regard, we should perhaps remember just what an effect a single candle can have. For one thing, the light of an average wax candle can be seen at amazing distances – and I’m talking about miles, not yards! Because the earth’s surface curves below the line of sight at 3.1 miles, or 5 kilometers, you can see a candle in clear dark conditions at 3.1 miles at ground level. But from an elevated position you can actually see a candle much further - on a dark night, in fact, the human eye is able to see a single candle flickering up to 30 miles (48 kilometers) away.
The only reason we are not aware of the amazing reach of a tiny light such as a candle is because of the bright lights that are often around us. But that’s the same reason city dwellers often can’t see many stars because of the ambient light, although the stars are, of course, billions of times brighter than the lights around us. Brightness seems relative to surroundings – if you are on a floodlit stage your candle or mine may seem not very bright at all. But where most of us live our daily lives – away from the spiritual floodlights – even a small candle can make a huge difference in the surrounding darkness.
The point of this analogy is just that if we allow Christ to work in our lives and to “shine” in us, we need never be concerned that our light is not bright enough, that we are not knowledgeable enough, good enough, spiritual enough. He supplies the light, not us, and even the smallest amount of light can be seen.
What Jesus said about the fact that a city on a hill can’t be hid (Matthew 5:14) also applies to our lowly candles. We don’t have to shine like a city – we don’t even have to be particularly bright. Physics teaches us that a little light can go a long way, and especially when there is no other light around, a little spiritual light can make a huge difference.