When my daughters were about 3 and 6, “light” was a big topic we closely studied in our home school. We studied the sun, moon, stars and outer space; they even built a rocket ship.
We sang “This little light of mine,” and I read aloud Matthew 5:16 to them. In that verse Jesus says: “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.”
Our Kindergarten-level discussion quickly led to the question: “What are good works, Mommy?” I don’t recall exactly how I answered that — probably something vague like “actions that show love for others.”
A few days later, our family was driving about a mile from home when we came upon a car with a flat tire. My husband pulled over to help, and as soon as he left the van, our youngest started the endless interrogation for which most 3 and 4 year-olds are famous.
“What are we doing? Why are we here? Why are we stopped? Who is that? What is Daddy doing? Do we know that lady?”
After I explained that he was helping the lady replace the flat tire, something clicked and she excitedly exclaimed, “Oh! Daddy’s letting his light shine!”
Since then, anything that might be considered good works in our family has been known as “letting your light shine.”
As followers of Jesus, we are called to let our lights shine, to be doers of good works. Of course doing good doesn’t save us; we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus. But without good works, our faith is dead. James 2:14-17 explains how inseparable faith and works are.
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
I love the word picture Rich Mullins painted on this truth: “Faith without works is like a song you can’t sing; it’s about as useless as a screen door on a submarine.”
The Bible is full of characters known for their faith and good works. The “hall of faith” in Hebrews 11 offers a nice overview of many. One lesser known doer with great faith, though, is Gaius. Some of his story is found in the book of 3 John, and I find it inspiring.
The Apostle John, in this letter, calls Gaius “beloved” four times. And we don’t have to read past verse 2 to know that — in John’s assessment — Gaius was in good spiritual shape. That’s a pretty powerful compliment coming from the one who refers to himself as “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” (John 13:23)
In his commentary on this passage, John MacArthur describes Gaius as loving and gentle, readily showing hospitality. He treated people as God would treat them, which is exactly how hospitality should be practiced, MacArthur says.
In short, Gaius knew the truth and faithfully practiced it. His faith had works. He was a doer. He let his light shine.
And in 3 John, Gaius is encouraged to keep on doing good works, even and especially when others questioned whether certain works of hospitality ought to be done.
Martin Luther concurs: “Yes, it is a living, creative, active and powerful thing, this faith. Faith cannot help doing good works constantly. It doesn’t stop to ask if good works ought to be done, but before anyone asks, it already has done them and continues to do them without ceasing. Anyone who does not do good works in this manner is an unbeliever. He stumbles around and looks for faith and good works, even though he does not know what faith or good works are.”
That’s a powerful statement — genuine believers cannot help being busy doing good works constantly — long before anyone comes along and asks if they should be done.
What’s more, James 1:25 says doers will be blessed in their doing. Clearly Gaius was blessed in his good works. He was blessed with the love, kind words and prayers of the Apostle John. He was blessed by the kind words and good report of those strangers he welcomed faithfully. And he was blessed to be a child of God walking in the truth.
How about you — how are you blessed in the doing of good works?