Jesus tells us that we should be the light of the world, a light high on a mountain where everyone can see. People seem to think that this means to go out and do good so others can see it. That is true to some extent, but the problem is that it quickly looks like showing off or looking phony.
I think this saying has a slightly different meaning. Yes, we absolutely should do what is good. We should do it all the time whether someone is looking or not. However, to me it means that we should worry about the darkness in the world. Don’t go out of your way to correct others. Just do it better. The best way to criticize the bad is to do it better. The easiest example would be someone at church who is always saying that no one is doing anything about (fill in the blank.) Instead of complaining about it, he should go and do it himself. Do it and never say a word about it. That is letting your light shine. By talking about it or making a big deal about the good you do, you start to make it look like you did it so you could brag about it. That is covering the light of your good work. People don’t see the good anymore.
I think St. Francis said it best when he said, “preach always, and when necessary use words.” Our actions speak louder than any words we could ever preach. Let your life be a sermon. It was said that St. Francis’s life was a prayer. That should be our goal, to make our entire lives a prayer to God.
Jesus casually says to go do good works so others may see and give glory to your Father in heaven. He is saying that God isn’t just His father, but that God is father to all of us. He is telling us that we can have the same relationship with God as He has. This was revolutionary at the time. The religion of Jesus’s day was very exclusive. Very few had access to God, and everyone had to jump through hoops to stay in His good graces. Now this carpenter from some obscure town in the north is telling everyone that God is their father! And we still to this day don’t really believe Him. We still prefer to jump through hoops. I guess it makes us feel better about ourselves, but in the long run it is just our pride and insecurities. We have to prove our love to everyone else, why should God be any different? Because He is God! We don’t have to prove anything to Him. We are loved more deeply than we will ever allow ourselves to believe. The trick is to begin to believe, and Jesus will help with your unbelief. Begin to trust in Him and you will find it much easier to be that light up on the mountain.