In today’s Gospel from St. Mark, Jesus asks his disciples, “Is a lamp brought in to be placed under a bushel basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand?” Mark is always a man of few words and one gets a fuller appreciation of Jesus’ message in Matthew’s version of the same teaching.
In Matthew, Jesus says:
You are the salt of the earth. But if salt loses its taste, with what can it be seasoned? It is no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.
I prefer the Matthean version because I think the last sentence is key.
We sometimes have a tendency to hide our talents, not wanting to be guilty of the sin of pride and wanting to be humble. But while humility is a virtue, false humility is not. Effectively Jesus is telling his disciples, you weren’t given your talents to hide them. You were given them for a purpose.
We are meant to use the talents we have been given – to share them broadly – not for our own glory, but for the glory of God. What we want is for the light of our lamp to shines, not on us, but on God.
True humility comes from seeing oneself clearly and recognizing our dependence on God. From understanding that our talents are gifts from our God. And if we remember that – that all we are and all we have is a gift from our God – we will be able to freely and fully place our lamp on a lampstand withough falling prey to either false humility or to pride.