“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven.
When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—to call attention to their acts of charity! ….they have received all the reward they will ever get.
But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.”
Matthew chapter 6, verses 1-4-NLT
Holy Bible, New Living Translation copyright 1996, 2004, 2007, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois, 60188. All rights reserved.
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Have you ever made a charitable donation online or by mail, where they asked you to check a box “make my donation anonymous”? I usually don’t, I’m ok with my name being listed as a donor.
Not that I want people to think I’m a kind, generous person, but so maybe I can encourage others to be kind and generous.
If an online donation prompts a “share to Facebook” I may do that. My motive is to set an example as well as to share needs that someone else might find appealing.
So, what about Matthew chapter 6?
The Bible scripture passage quoted above, from Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, seems to tell us we should give in secret, not letting anyone else know.
But Bible scholars interpret it less literally. Considering it in context of the whole sermon, they suggest it means we shouldn’t give just to impress people nor brag about what we give, not that it always has to be secretive (although sometimes it should be.)
Giving from the Left or Right
Now I don’t think Jesus was making a political statement here. Nor was he just using hyperbole-an exaggerate statement or claim not meant to be taken literally . But I do think he was using a figure of speech to make a point, although it’s not a figure of speech either.
Because not knowing one side of one’s body is a real thing.
People with the syndrome of hemispatial neglect experience reduced awareness of stimuli on one side of space. This may occur after damage to the brain as from a stroke or trauma.
People with hemispatial neglect are often unaware of their condition. Friends or relatives might suggest they look to their neglected side but that instruction misunderstands the problem they have with navigating the space around them… people are not aware that something is missing, so why would they seek it out?the Guardian.com
So imagine not knowing what’s on the left side of your body. Well, that’s how generous we should be; give (as if) we don’t know what we gave.
(Obviously, if we take that too literally, we might not manage our money very well, which might limit our ability to be generous; we still need to be financially prudent. )
The man who didn’t know what he had done
Every year at Christmas time a classic movie makes it’s way to network television and streaming services. Like many famous movies, the script was adapted from a book, or rather a short story titled “The Greatest Gift” .
George was a man who had a good life until things started going wrong, so badly that he concluded his life had been a failure and he had never done anything right or good in his entire life. He even contemplated suicide.
That is until a mystery “person” came along and showed him how the world would have been without George’s life and good deeds. Poverty, crime,unemployment, alcohol abuse, even deaths would have occurred had it not been for George’s life. And he had no idea!
His left hand didn’t know what his right hand had done.
Of course you know I’m talking about George Bailey from the classic movie It’s a Wonderful Life, released in January 1947, nominated for 5 Academy Awards, and considered one of the best films ever made. But most people like it because it’s a feel good movie that can make you laugh and cry.
Each man’s life touches so many other lives .It’s a Wonderful Life
If you’re not familiar with the story, or just want to review your favorite parts, you can ask to join the It’s a Wonderful Life Facebook Group.
Of course, Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol didn’t have George’s problem. He knew exactly what he had done to help others-nothing!
It took dying (almost) and three scary visitors to show Ebenezer how stingy his hands had been, never giving anything away, and convincing him that generosity was better than miserliness and loneliness. At the end of the story , both of his hands were busy passing out food and gifts to strangers, friends, and family.
George, Scrooge, and Us
Like George, all of us have done acts of service, kindness, and giving that have made someone else’s life better, whether we know it or not. And like Scrooge, we’ve all missed chances to be generous, to “go the extra mile”, and to treat others the way we want to be treated. And like both George and Scrooge, it’s never too late to cultivate a gracious heart and generous hands-right and left.
Tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others.
1 Timothy chapter 6, verse 18
I wrote more about Dickens at this link
Charles Dickens, English writer, wrote some of the most beloved and quoted literature in the English language.
and at this post about generosity
Therefore, because God is so generous to us, we’re to be lavishly generous to others. Who has been “lavishly generous” to you?
sharing the HEART of giving
Thanks, Dr. Aletha
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My friend Ric Shields wrote a book about generosity, titled Generous Measures.
“one minute lessons with a lifetime of value“