“Jesus Bids Us Shine”

"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:16)

     INTRO.: A song which exhorts us to let our lights so shine before men that they may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven is "Jesus Bids Us Shine." The text is usually ascribed to Susan Bogert Warner, who was born on July 11, 1819, in New York City, NY, the older sister of Anna Bartlett Warner (1820-1915). The two girls were raised in New York City where their widower father was a prosperous lawyer who bought a summer house on Constitution Island in the Hudson River near the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY. She and Anna spent the summers at their family vacation home named "Good Crag" on Constitution Island.

     However, in the panic of 1837, Mr. Warner lost heavily, had to sell their New York City home, and moved with Susan and Anna permanently to Constitution Island. After their father died, the sisters were left with a meager income and turned to writing popular novels to earn a living so that they might keep their home. One of Susan’s books was entitled The Little Corporal, which was published in 1868 and contained a poem beginning, "Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light." However, some sources attribute the poem to Anna. The two sisters often collaborated where Susan did the prose and Anna, who seemed to be better at poetry, provided the verses. In fact, Anna’s best known hymn, "Jesus Loves Me," also appeared in a novel by Susan.

     Susan, under the pseudonym of Elizabeth Wetherell, achieved a fair degree of literary fame in her day for her many novels which sold rather well. The two sisters conducted regular Bible study classes with the cadets at West Point for many years until Susan died on Mar. 17, 1885, at Highland Falls, NY. After her death, Anna produced a biography of her sister. The most commonly used tune with "Jesus Bids Us Shine" was composed by Edwin Othello Excel (1851-1921). The song first appeared in his 1884 book The Gospel in Song. The copyright was renewed in 1912 by Hope Publishing Co.

     Among hymnbooks published by members of the Lord’s church during the twentieth century for use in churches of Christ, "Jesus Bids Us Shine" appeared in the 1921 Great Songs of the Church (No. 1) and the 1937 Great Songs of the Church No. 2 both edited by E. L. Jorgenson; the 1935 Christian Hymns (No. 1, with a tune by Charles Pollock), the 1948 Christian Hymns No. 2, and the 1966 Christian Hymns No. 3 all edited by L. O. Sanderson; the 1940 Complete Christian Hymnal (with the Pollock tune) edited by Marion Davis; and the 1965 Great Christian Hymnal No. 2 edited by Tillit S. Teddlie. Today it may be found in the 2007 Sacred Songs of the Church edited by William D. Jeffcoat.

     The song encourages us to be lights in the world to help others.

I. Stanza 1 says that our lights should be clear and pure
"Jesus bids us shine with a clear, pure light,
Like a little candle burning in the night;
In this world of darkness we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine."
 A. God wants His people to be lights in the world: Phil. 2:15
 B. We are like a candle burning in the night, which is often used to represent sin: 1 Thess. 5:7-8
 C. We are like a light shining in a world of darkness, which is also used to represent sin: Jn. 3:19-21

II. Stanza 2 says that our lights must be for Jesus
"Jesus bids us shine first of all for Him;
Well He sees and knows it if our light is dim.
He looks down from heaven, sees us shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine."
 A. Jesus wants us to shine for Him by being good examples of the believer: 1 Tim. 4:12
 B. Therefore, we must be careful not to let our light become dim by engaging in behavior which should not even be named among saints: Eph. 5:3-7
 C. We need to remember that Jesus looks down from heaven and sees whether we are shining or not because all things are naked and open to His eyes: Heb. 4:13

III. Stanza 3 says that our lights will brighten the darkness
"Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around
Many kinds of darkness in this world abound:
Sin and want and sorrow–we must shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine."
 A. Some books punctuate this stanza differently. "Jesus bids us shine, then, for all around; Many kinds of darkness…," with the idea that we should shine for everyone, even unbelievers, so that they may see our good works and glorify God: 1 Pet. 2:11-12
 B. Many kinds of darkness in this world abound because the world lies under the sway of the wicked one: 1 Jn. 5:19
 C. This includes sin and want and sorrow, so we need to use speech that will edify and impart grace to the hearers: Eph. 4:29, Col. 4:5-6

IV. Stanza 4 says that our lights are working for Him
"Jesus bids us shine, as we work for Him,
Bringing those that wander from the paths of sin;
He will ever help us, if we shine,
You in your small corner, and I in mine."
 A. Jesus wants us to be abounding in His work: 1 Cor. 15:58
 B. This work includes bringing those that wander from the path of sin: Prov. 11:30
 C. He has promised to help us as we strive to do His will: Phil. 1:6, 4:13

     CONCL.: While this song is obviously intended as a "children’s song," the scriptural thought upon which it is based should be applied to every Christian. One source made the following suggestion. "Sunday schools wishing to teach this song with more modern wording might try a first line of ‘Jesus says to shine….’" Say again? What is wrong with the word "bids"? Have we raised such an illiterate generation that "dumbed-down" rewording of hymns like this becomes necessary? I seriously doubt that any normally intelligent child would have any trouble understanding what it means to say that "Jesus Bids Us Shine."

3 thoughts on ““Jesus Bids Us Shine”

  1. What a beautiful little children’s hymn. I am teaching it to my granddaughter as I drive her to nursery school in the mornings.


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