Trying to teach a child to tie shoelaces can be a difficult thing, not only for the child, but also for the teacher. I can’t tie my shoelaces if I think about it. I have been doing it so long it is an automatic thing that doesn’t require conscious thought. I just do it without thinking.
Matthew presents the “Sermon on the Mount” in three chapters, and today’s passage is part of this famous teaching. How should you NOT do acts of righteousness? How should you NOT give to the needy? How should you give? Why?
This brief passage from Jesus contains a very common expression – “Do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” I have heard it used many times to describe times when people, usually in business, are going in different directions with their work. When co-workers are doing things that are counter-productive or divergent someone might say, “The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.”
But Jesus is giving instruction on how to show chrestotes to others. We aren’t supposed to be kind and giving so we can show off to others. We aren’t supposed to make a big spectacle of our kindness.
Instead, we should be discreet in our kindness. Our giving may not need to be anonymous in every instance, but it should not be a grand gesture on our part. I would say our kindness should not be something done as a calculated maneuver, but more of an instinctive response performed without ceremony.
The instruction from Jesus is one of those many sayings that appear to be impossible – like the camel through the eye of a needle. How can a person’s left hand not know what the right hand is doing? How can any part of a human body be doing something that the whole body is not aware of.
It is impossible.
It is impossible, that is, unless you look at this expression in light of tying shoelaces. I could say that when I tie my shoelaces my left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Why? Because it is an automatic thing. I just do it.
This may be part of what Jesus means in this teaching. Perhaps we should be generous and kind in our giving, not to get rewards in the form of praise and thanks, but because it is just an automatic thing we do. Our acts of kindness should not be something we plan out so that it nets the biggest response, but something that comes naturally.
DAILY CHALLENGE: Examine your attitude in responding to those in need. Is it an automatic thing or a calculated response?