Matthew 6:3. “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,”
What is it about giving to others that warrants such special attention? You would think giving something away wouldn’t require much dialogue. You have something you own or something someone else owns, and you gift it to someone else. The ones receiving the gift may show thanks or just act like it’s expected, (I’ve come across both), and from my perspective, it’s always nice to at least have someone say, thank you. But Jesus doesn’t seem to put as much emphasis into how we receive gifts, He seems to be more interested in how we give them.
If we look at little deeper into Matthew 6, we see the details of giving. The first two verses seem to come on the heels of Jesus teaching us how to treat our enemies. We often times look at the next chapter of a book of the Bible as a whole new subject, but it wasn’t written that way. Gaining context into the meaning of a scripture, sometimes requires reading before or after a passage.
Anyway, back to Matthew 6:1-2 “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.”
So, who are the men Jesus is referring to? Our enemies or brothers and sisters in Christ? You would think this distinction would be important. Those who are of like faith, have a genuine love for one another and would typically celebrate with them. Those who are not believers in Christ may wonder why your doing what your doing, or may think your crazy for giving your stuff away. They might even help, but their motivation would be completely different.
In verse five, Jesus makes mention of hypocrites, praying in a way that brings attention their way. They are called hypocrites because they show what people think is godliness but in their hearts, pride is the motivating factor. People can be hypocrites when they give as well. Matter of fact, there are all kinds of seemingly “good deeds”, performed by people that may or may not be done with the right heart.
Jesus mentions these kinds of people in Matthew 7:21-23. “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have wenot prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ 23And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’”
These kinds of people may look really good on the surface level. They may be leaders in a church or someone highly revered among the congregation. Often times, people will even support them or try and become like them. The problem is, there is one big piece that is missing:
Jesus was never in it!
The Holy Spirit wasn’t leading these people in ministering to others, they were doing it on their own accord. It may of sounded honorable, the world certainly praised them and even those being helped may have thanked them. They may have received praise from their peers in church…but…
Their hearts were actually wicked. Their deeds, though they looked good were evil in God’s eyes.
Why? One word: Pride!!!
God hates pride. It was pride that led to Lucifer’s fall, it was the pride of man that led to his spiritual death and it is pride that has inhibited all those who have denied submitting to God’s plan and purpose for their lives.
Psalm 10:4 “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts.”
Why is pride such an affront to God? Let’s briefly look at Moses on Mt. Sinai, you know, when God was about to give him the 10 commandments:
In Exodus 33:18-19. “And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.” Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before you.”
Pride places you as the ruler of your life. Pride rejects God’s sovereignty and elevates your limited understanding in place of God’s immeasurable wisdom and knowledge. You make yourself your own god. Pride blasphemes God’s name. Did you know God’s name is synonymous with His glory and His goodness. God revealed this truth to Moses when Israel was being formed as a nation. When God’s name is blasphemed (which is to show contempt for), His goodness and His glory are likewise scorned. We blaspheme God’s name if we do “good deeds” in His name with wrong hearts. Why? Because we are doing it for ourselves, not for Him or by Him.
So, back to Jesus’ words in Matthew 6, the thought of your left hand talking to your right hand confused me for years.
The church would teach that this meant not telling anyone a deed you may have done for God, unless you want to lose your reward. Even deeds done by inspiration of the Holy Spirit. But is this what the Bible teaches?
Hebrews 10:24-25 “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another,and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.
This sounds like we are to partner with fellow believers in encouraging them to do good works, i.e. (works inspired by God), not hide it from them. So then the left hand-right hand allegory means something else.
When I visited Israel a few years ago, I took part in an abrahamic luncheon in the area Abraham settled at the time of Sodom and Gomorrah. We sat down as was tradition and the food was laid out as it might of been thousands of years ago. We were instructed to lean on our left hand and eat with our right hand. We were told, the left hand was considered dirty and the right clean. The left was used to clean your self after using the outhouse, you never shook hands with the left, that would be offensive. Interesting how Jesus will separate the sheep and the goats one day, the goats, or those who have rejected Him as savior will be on the left and the sheep, His faithful followers will be in the right. This story was illustrated in Matthew 25.
I think when we are instructed to not let the left know what the right hand is doing, we are being told to not share God’s faithful workings in our lives with those who have rejected Him. They simply will not receive it, they will either blaspheme His name, give you the credit, and that would be the opposite effect we would be looking for or they simply do not care.
When we share Gods faithfulness in our lives with His sheep, we encourage them in their walk, spurning them on to good deeds, and we ultimately exalt the Lord’s name before them. Since God is the One doing the work, we are simply an instrument of His goodness.
Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things,Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
So whether you are giving food, clothes or the gospel, we have a model for how we should give. If we are led by the Spirit of God, we are counted as sons and daughters of God, and the work we do will be blessed. Our work will have it’s just reward and Jesus will likewise be glorified. Let’s not judge other’s work, Jesus makes that very clear, we don’t know others hearts and where their motivation is originating, so let God do the judging and us do the obeying.
The fruit of good works shows itself in due time.