Not Heights But Depths…

Ben Schoettel   -  


When I was working on the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s campus I noticed something odd. All the main buildings had multiple lower levels to them when there was plenty of room to building higher. I asked my foreman if he knew the reason. “So that everywhere you go, you can always get a clear shot of the Capitol building. I didn’t believe him at first, but he was right. There is a similar standard in Washington DC as well. The principle is that no buildings overshadow the Capitol. So, if you want to grow, you must go deeper…

In Matthew 5 Jesus describes his faithful followers as salt, light, and a “city on a hill.” The city description is reference to the place where people would go to connect with God. In those days, people would need to journey to the presence of God, and this place was up on a hill for all to see. Jesus is of course no longer referencing a physical temple but is describing his followers as this space that reveals God’s glory. But there is a catch… Jesus’ statement is not praising them; it is challenging them. He does two things here:

First… He reminds them that if they claim the name of Jesus, they cannot hide. People are always seeking goodness, and God is the source, so when we claim the name of God, it is going to draw attention.

Second… He reminds them that God’s glory (light) is not to be hidden or kept for us but is meant to be shared. “People do not light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket; rather, they put it on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in Heaven.” Jesus says here that being salt and light is not for an individual’s status, but for the benefit of the community.

It reminds me of the dispute over who is the greatest between the disciples. Jesus just got done explaining the Lord’s Supper and how he is the new covenant that is poured out for their benefit, and the first thing that is asked is, “Yeah okay, anyways, Jesus, who is your favorite? Can I sit next to you on the throne?” Jesus responds by saying “The kings of the world lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves… I am among you as one who serves.”

Just like the buildings around the Capitol, we are not to strive to be at the center. We go low. We embody mission. We are not designed to be in the spotlight but are to BE spotlights that point the world to Jesus. The goal of growth is to deepen our love for God which is promised to expand our capacity to love others. When we do that, we provide more space for those around us to experience God’s love while still humbly pointing to the glory to King Jesus.