I once heard a person say that we should be “thermostat Christians,” not “thermometer Christians.” I was puzzled, so they explained.

A thermometer Christian is one whose temperature is constantly adjusting to whatever circumstances he finds himself in. This person is able to assess the surrounding environment and then adjust his approach to better reach people. On the other hand, a thermostat Christian is one who influences his or her surroundings, making a difference for the better.

I was thinking about this recently as I have been doing a series of Bible studies on Jesus’ well-known Sermon on the Mount. At one point, Jesus says, “You are the light of the world. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” But He also says, “Be careful not to perform your righteous acts before men to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from God your Father.”1

Although these two statements can seem to contradict each other at first, I think it is a good example of how we can correctly apply the principle of being a Christian who is an influence for good. We’re clearly meant to have an effect on our surroundings—sharing God’s light and love with the world—yet, it’s so important that we do it with the motivation of glorifying Jesus and lifting Him up, not trying to show that our faith or religion makes us better than other people. Don’t forget either that all good thermostats include a thermometer as well. We do need to be able to rightly assess situations to see how we can best reach people with the good news and glorify God.

As Christians, I believe Jesus wants us to be like Him—humble, extending His love and healing to all He encountered, flaws and all. Gently leading and teaching, bringing them along at a pace that they could handle. It says in Philippians 2:7 that Jesus was not concerned about His own reputation, but rather took on the identity of a servant. I think you could say that Jesus radically adapted to His human surroundings to be relatable to those He was with, but also projected a huge force for good in creating change in each circumstance He came into. I am praying that I can follow His example in my life.

  1. Matthew 5:14, 16; 6:1