Christians are called to be lights to the world around them. We hear that often enough in Christian circles, and rightly so. It’s a biblical concept. In this post, I want to explore one biblical admonition to shine as lights and what it actually means to do so—it might surprise you.
“Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world…” (Philippians 2:14–15)
Though we live in the midst of “a crooked and twisted generation,” Paul calls us to something different. Our world is grossly skewed, but we shine as lights.
So far, this is very familiar. But notice how we are to be different: “Do all things without grumbling and questioning.” This is what sets us apart.
When you hear the familiar Christian calling to let your light shine, is this what comes to your mind?
We tend to view our “shining” in cultural terms. I’m different when I stand out culturally. Maybe it’s something superficial like a t-shirt or bumper sticker. Maybe it’s more behavioral—I don’t drink, cuss, swear, smoke, or chew. Maybe it’s verbal, where your light shines through your public proclamation of the gospel.
T-shirts and bumper stickers aside, there is a real place for each of these things. Paul became “all things to all people” (1 Cor. 9:22), and while there is much disagreement on whether this includes the freedom to cuss, for example, we can all agree that this would include the freedom to abstain from cussing.
In any case, Paul says that our light shines when we refrain from grumbling and questioning. What should make us different is less cultural and more attitudinal.
How do you react when things don’t go your way? How do you respond when your friends and coworkers begin complaining? These aren’t matters of preference. They’re not low priority issues. More is at stake than potentially hurting someone’s feelings or coming across as a whiner.
Paul says that if we do everything without grumbling, we will be “blameless and innocent,” we will be “children of God without blemish,” and we will “shine as lights” in the midst of a “crooked and twisted generation.” That sounds like a big deal.
While we’re busy trying to be different by not drinking, not cussing, and avoiding a handful of other taboos, most of us don’t give a lot of thought to our grumbling level. Paul is not telling us to pursue every potential vice but this one, but passages like this challenge us to give special attention to the words we speak and the attitudes beneath them.