Matthew 5:16: What does it mean to Be the Light

Matthew 5:16 says, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.” What does it mean to be the light? How do we practice it and teach it to our children?

This is the first verse that I taught my kids. My husband pastored a church in Mississippi when my boys, who are only 18 months apart, were very young. The church’s children’s director was cleaning out a closet with some old Sunday School curriculum. She asked me if I would like to go through any of it before she tossed it.

I found some great cd’s with scripture in the form of songs on them. I took those home and decided to play them every morning after Family Bible. The catchiest one was from Matthew 5:16.

The boys learned it quickly and it just followed suit that when their sisters came along, they would be taught this one first too. Any time this verse is read the kids and I automatically sing it and I can still hear the nanana’s and hey-hey’s in my brain!! (I’ll put the link at the end so you can get it stuck in your brain too. You’re welcome. There are also lots of other resources at the end to help you teach them to be the light.)

Matthew 5:16 what does it mean to be the light

Studying Matthew 5:16: Teaching them to Be The Light

Teaching our kids to memorize scripture is only the beginning. In order for it to “transform” their minds, they must understand, meditate, and apply the verse.

The Bible says that understanding comes from the fear of the Lord and from turning away from evil. (Job 28:28, Psalm 111:10) So, the bottom line is that our children are not truly able to be the light until they have their own relationship with the Lord through salvation by faith.

But, this does not mean that there isn’t so much truth in Matthew 5:16 to unpack and so many things that we can teach them about the light before they have the light. After all, our goal is to raise children who profess Christ as their Savior.

Teach Them Jesus is the Light

“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’”

John 8:12

The most powerful truth that they can gain from this scripture is that we are not truly the source of light. The Bible says, “there is none good, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) The true source of light and good comes from Jesus alone. His light shines to point us toward the way of salvation.

Jesus shines light into our hearts that hold sin. Once revealed, the conviction of the Holy Spirit leads us to repent. We gain wisdom as He molds our hearts to reflect His light.

Be the Light for Them

“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.”

Ephesians 5:8

Until our children are able to see and understand the light for themselves, we are the ones this verse is talking too, “Let your light shine before men…” We must give them the example to follow of what being the light looks like.

  • Let them see you read your Bible and share with them the truths you’ve learned there.
  • Let them hear you pray. Pray for forgiveness, pray for boldness, pray for others, and pray for wisdom in front of them. Ask God to help you shine your light.
  • Let them see you shine your light to others. Take them along when you serve at the church or serve a neighbor.
  • Let them hear you tell others that Jesus is the light!!!

Light Shine Brightest in the Darkness

“The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

John 1:5

This world is full of darkness and trouble. Explain to your children that while it may seem that most people are not following God, we stand for truth and that our voices may seem small but the light shines brightest in the dark.

The light reveals the truth. Hidden things are brought into view. Nothing can stay concealed from His brightness and glory. Remind your children that God knows our deeds good and bad. He punishes sin but because He is so loving, He forgives those who ask. “If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,” even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” (Psalm 139:11-12)

Also, reassure them that because God is light, the light always wins. The darkness cannot hide the light. Because of Jesus’ work on the cross, victory belongs to those who trust in Him.  “everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Light is Attractive and Glorifies God

 “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

1 Peter 2:9

Once they are saved, as is the case with my older three now, the truth of the verse becomes much more clear moving from Jesus is the light and giving them the example of the light to now, you are the light.

We’ve all heard the expression “like a moth to the flame” and have seen how light draws bugs. We also have seen those science experiments where the flowers will grow to face the sunlight. The reason is obvious, light is attractive. Light exudes energy and warmth and is the case with the sun, light is the source of life!!

The last part of Matthew 5:16 says “that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

This is the goal Momma. We want to shine a light so attractive that it draws our kids to praise the Father in heaven. Then, for them to shine their own lights so attractive that they draw the attention of others and cause them to praise God!! Everything points back to our true source of light, JESUS!

Practical Ways to Teach the About the Light

(Younger Kids)

  1. Grab some flight lights or glow sticks and go into a really dark room. Use the light to read Matthew 5:16 and John 8:12. Explain how the light shines in the darkness and how nothing can stay hidden when its near.
  2. Take them back to creation in Genesis 1. Talk about how God created light. I love this little lesson resource:
  3. Teach them songs about light:
  4. Do simple science experiments with light.

More Scriptures on the Light and Lessons (Older Kids)

  1. Have them memorize, study, copy, and meditate on the following scriptures:
    • “For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness.” (Psalm 18:28)
    • For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness” (1 Thess. 5:5)
    • “And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil.” (John 3:19)
    •  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)
  2. Light Experiments for Older kids:
  3. Lessons on Being the Light: (Be sure to look at the bottome where they have several lessons on light.)

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26 thoughts on “Matthew 5:16: What does it mean to Be the Light

  1. “We want to shine a light so attractive that it draws our kids to praise the Father in heaven. Then, for them to shine their own lights so attractive that they draw the attention of others and cause them to praise God!!” Love these lines so much! And I love that you gave us practical ways to teach our kids to be a light as well. Great and inspiring post! Let’s be the light!

  2. elizabethdaghfal

    So many good thoughts here. Like Collene, I love the statement about being an attractive light to draw them in.
    And then there’s this one: “Until our children are able to see and understand the light for themselves, we are the ones this verse is talking too…We must give them the example to follow of what being the light looks like.”
    Yes! Like,the Philips, Craig, and Dean song, “Lord, I want to be just like You–cause he wants to be just like me,” my kids are always watching me–much closer than they’re listening. So what I say needs to match my actions.

  3. Great practical ideas! My kids loved listening to Bible verse songs and even stories as kids to help learn practical lessons taught in the Bible. I remember the first verse I taught my daughter when she was around two was Genesis 1:1. I can remember her sweet little voice saying it. Precious. One thing I would recommend is having a resource for kids especially as they get older where they can look up specific verses for sins or problems or whatever. Our church gave one out to our kids when they were tweens called The Bible Promise Book. Yes, you can look this stuff up online nowadays, but this little book is easy to flip through and find verses. Thank you for sharing!

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  13. Abby

    Thank you for the awesome resource! Such wonderful information to teach kids (and adults too) about being the light. I didn’t see the link to the song you mentioned at the very beginning of this blog. (The one you said would be “stuck in my head”) can you share the link? Or am I just overlooking it in the blog?

  14. Page

    I am sharing this link and article in my Sunday school follow up this weekend; I absolutely love your ideas and advice about Salt and Light! Thank you!

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