Light BulbChristians 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.

Paul says:

“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.

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Mark Beuving currently serves as Associate Pastor at Creekside Church in Rocklin, CA. Prior to going back into pastoral ministry, Mark spent ten years on staff at Eternity Bible College as a Campus Pastor, Dean of Students, and then Associate Professor. Mark now teaches online adjunct for Eternity. He is passionate about building up the body of Christ, training future leaders for the Church, and writing. Though he is interested in many areas of theology and philosophy, Mark is most fascinated with practical theology and exploring the many ways in which the Bible can speak to and transform our world. He is the author of "Resonate: Enjoying God's Gift of Music" and the co-author with Francis Chan of "Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples." Mark lives in Rocklin with his wife and two daughters.


  1. Great insight, Mark. Our “shining” goes far beyond what we abstain from and certainly includes (as we see in this passage) our attitudes. Connect that with Matt 5:16 and we see that the way we shine is through abstaining (James 1:27), attitude (Phil 2:14-15), and doing good works (Matt 5:16). It seems there are many ways to shine 🙂