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The Parable of the Lamp on a Stand

What does the parable of the lamp on a stand mean for Christians today?

I remember singing “This Little Light of Mine” as a child complete with exaggerated hand motions.  Truth be told, I thoroughly enjoy singing it today with my four-year-old son. 

The song may be simple, but it teaches an important truth.  Let’s go back to the reference that song gives us and discuss the parable of the lamp on the stand.

What exactly does it mean and how do we apply it today? 

Can a simple children's song hold meaning for us as adults?  Absolutely! 

We are also going to explore the much bigger picture of God as light and how that light is in the hearts of His children.

a lit lantern sitting outside in the forest

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What is the Parable of the Lamp on a Stand?

The parable of the lamp on a stand is mentioned four times in the gospels.  I’m going to take that as a hint.  Jesus really wanted us to understand something here.

Notice these concepts as you study the following verses:

  • The candle is meant to be seen.
  • Light does us no good when concealed.
  • Others need to see the light.
  • God will reveal things we have hidden.
  • The light points to God.
  • We are to participate in the light.  It should be active in our lives.

The Parable of the Lamp in Mark reads:

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand?  For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”  (Mark 4:21-23 NIV)

The Parable of the Lamp in Luke reads:

“No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.  (Luke 8:16-17)

“No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.  (Luke 11:33)

The Parable of the Lamp in Matthew reads:

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.  (Matthew 5:14-16)

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What is the Spiritual Meaning of the Lamp?

We know that Jesus is not simply talking about a real lamp.  Why did Jesus emphasize putting the lamp on a stand?  What is the spiritual meaning of the lamp? 

Simply put, God is light and the lamp represents Him.  In turn, Jesus is the light and we represent him

We know that God is the light.  From the first day of creation, He expressed Himself as light. 

He expresses himself as light when He speaks to Moses from a bush that was on fire but was not burning.  Jesus continues this expression when he calls himself the light of the world.

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.”  (Mark 8:12)

God is light.  This is seen from the very beginning.  The lamp represents Jesus.  We are to follow that light, become that light, and represent Christ. 

This is why the lamp is not put under the bed or bowl or hidden.  It must show the presence of the one true God to a world dark with sin. 

The lamp must expose sin, convict hearts, and open ears to hear the good news of salvation.  It is meant to shine in a dark world full of greed, hate, addiction, hopelessness, fear, and death. 

The lamp is a source of hope, a realization that there is something better.

It doesn’t end there.  The lamp represents God and therefore His characteristics.  The light is one of love, joy, peace, and righteousness.

Jesus commands us to let our light shine that others may see these exact characteristics, and do what?  Glorify God. 

As a lamp, we are pointing the way to God, His goodness, and all He has to offer. 

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What Does the Lamp Represent for Us as Christians?

What does the lamp represent for us as Christians? How do you apply this parable to your life? 

In simple terms, we are the stand for the lamp (God) to shine from.

As Christians, we should be holding that light in a way that shines so bright that it is near blinding to those who see it!

It is one thing to say you are a Christian or a follower of Christ, but is it visibly apparent to others? Can they literally “see” your faith exuding from you?

When people scroll your social media, for example, do they KNOW that you love Jesus? And does it make them want to know Him too?

The parable of the lamp on a stand is meant to encourage us to shine God's light like a lighthouse beacon (not a small penlight) so the lost can find their way to Him.

Related: How to Share the Gospel with Non-Believers

If we are embarrassed by our faith and are hiding that lamp under a bowl or if we haven’t surrendered the darkness in our own hearts to the light, then we cannot point others to Christ. 

What does the parable of the lamp on the stand mean to you?  How do you apply this parable in your life?  I’d love for you to leave a comment below and share your thoughts on this important teaching of Jesus.

“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…”.

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