A City Set Upon a Hill

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, 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 who is in heaven.” (Matthew 5:14-16)


In 1630, John Winthrop led a group of Puritan Englishmen to the shores of America. He stood upon the ship, The Arabella, challenging his countrymen to establish a nation that would be a “city set on a hill.” He pleaded with them on the basis of scripture to live as a model of Christian charity. He writes:

We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies, when He shall make us a praise and glory, that men shall say of succeeding plantations, "the Lord make it like that of New England." For we must consider that we shall be as a "city upon a hill." The eyes of all people are upon us, so that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause Him to withdraw His present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword through the world.

Winthrop knew that the world’s eyes were watching the New England colonists. He knew that they had a tremendous opportunity to shine the light of the gospel across the world. Politicians, like John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan, have popularized Winthrop’s early exhortation as a sign of American exceptionalism. America was to establish as an exceptional nation because her inhabitants would live as the light of the world.

 Jesus has commands his church to be a light to the world. Light brings illumination. It  makes no sense for a light to be hidden. A hidden lamp cannot serve its purpose for it cannot illuminate darkness. Beloved, a hidden Christian cannot serve their purpose for they cannot bring illumination to darkness. We are called the light of the world so that others may see our good works and give glory to our Father in heaven.  God saved us for a purpose. We were created in Christ Jesus for good works.

Do our lives radiate the light of the gospel? Do we live with such integrity and holiness that people are drawn to our God and Savior? We are not called to live in a holy huddle, but to shine the light of Christ to our world. We may not be establishing a new nation, but Winthrop’s words still stand. We are still called to be a “city set upon a hill.” We live out this great privilege in our jobs Monday through Friday. We are working for King Jesus. We work diligently at the office to radiate God’s grace to our colleagues so that we shine for His Glory. 

Sebastian Traeger writes in his book, The Gospel at Work: How Working for King Jesus Gives Purpose and Meaning to Our Jobs,

Our jobs are more than just a means to an end — whether that end is selfish enjoyment or service in the church. Our work is more than something we “slog through.” However menial, however boring, however unmatched to our interests, our jobs are one of the key ways in which God matures us as Christians and brings glory to himself. God has a purpose for our work.

We should wake up each morning understanding that God has a purpose for us. He wants to use us to bring Him glory!! Beloved, the world is watching so let us not be a byword among our neighbors, but a city set upon a hill. Let them see the light.  
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