Not Letting Your Left Hand Know
THE Great Teacher was the keenest observer of human nature this earth has ever seen. Unerringly he detected ulterior motives and unsparingly he spoke out against them. In one of his strictures against a common human failing he once said:
“Take good care not to practice your righteousness in front of men in order to be observed by them; otherwise you will have no reward with your Father who is in the heavens. Hence when you start making gifts of mercy, do not blow a trumpet ahead of you, just as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be glorified by men. Truly I say to you, They are having their reward in full. But you, when making gifts of mercy, do not let your left hand know what your right is doing, that your gifts of mercy may be in secret; then your Father who is looking on in secret will repay you.”—Matt. 6:1-4.
How searching these words of the Great Teacher are! How well the Son of God understood human nature, especially fallen, imperfect human nature! We may not think of blowing a literal trumpet, but we are prone to advertise our own goodness. As the Scriptural proverb states: “A multitude of men will proclaim each one his own loving-kindness, but a faithful man who can find?” Fittingly we are therefore counseled: “May a stranger, and not your own mouth, praise you; may a foreigner, and not your own lips, do so.” A deed may seem to be generous, but if we call attention to it the deed becomes a mere investment in our reputation. Our motives become suspect and we lay ourselves open to the charge of pride and hypocrisy.—Prov. 20:6; 27:2.
But just what did Jesus mean by telling us not to let our left hand know what our right hand is doing in the matter of charity? For one thing, it would indicate the greatest secrecy regarding our giving. Since the left hand works so very closely with the right in almost everything we do, for the left not to know would certainly preclude our boasting about our charitable works to even our closest companion, be that a wife or a husband. By means of this hyperbole Jesus was also driving home the point or vital principle that our chief concern should be to win God’s approval rather than man’s.
Not that there may not be times when calling attention to our own good works would serve a good purpose, as when making a certain point or when endeavoring to stir others to follow a good course. Thus King David pointed to the treasure he contributed to the building of a temple to Jehovah, gold and silver to the value of well over $90 million. Likewise other faithful servants of Jehovah, both before and since his day, including the Son of God, at times made mention of their good works. However, in no instance was this done for the purpose of being “glorified by men.” Rather, it was done for the purpose of glorifying God, as when David went on to say to Jehovah: “And yet, who am I and who are my people, that we should retain power to make voluntary offerings like this? For everything is from you and out of your own hand we have given to you.” Or it may have been done to stir others to do likewise, as when Paul recounted his course of action and the hardships he endured as a Christian minister, missionary and apostle, enabling him to say: “Become imitators of me, even as I am of Christ.”—1 Chron. 29:3, 4, 13, 14; 1 Cor. 11:1; 2 Cor. 6:3-10; 11:12-33.
Truly the Great Teacher, the Son of God, had keen understanding of human nature. He well knew that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and it is exceedingly corrupt: who can know it?” With the aid of God’s Word and holy spirit or active force Jesus Christ was able to understand the heart of man.—Jer. 17:9, AS.