Jesus said, “Instead, when you are making a charitable donation, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is up to...”
— Matthew 6:3 (USC)
Morality is what Jesus seems to be pinpointing, here.
We know we aren’t supposed to be claiming another person’s credit, but Jesus extends this into the realm of a higher moral vision, because there is no glory to God when we attract to ourselves what those of the world do.
It’s no problem for someone of worldly ethics to promote the fact they gave to this cause or to that one. Indeed, it can be part of their core business strategy.
But Jesus isn’t specifying this moral imperative for the worldly. It’s the Christian that the onus is on. We have no basis judging the worldly person for claiming what they see as rightly theirs – their donation is their credit, and that is a most direct relationship.
But we are called to a higher moral vision: one that will attract persons open to the Kingdom because of our self-effacing obedience. Such a person – even someone already converted – will be intrigued to learn the motive that gives with resistance to credit.
They see something noble in the act and there is naturally a spark of curiosity. They wonder what compelled such a gift and the running from credit. They are captivated because of the implicit strength such a virtuous act requires.
Strength is attractional, and virtuous acts are the best show of strength overall.
The person who does a good work with the right hand that the left has no knowledge of is a craftsman of obedience to God’s will.
They do not simply obey for legalism’s sake – because Jesus told them so. Their obedience has a deeper conviction of belief in Jesus about it.
Making a “charitable” donation implies love which transcends obedience for the sake of impressing people, even Jesus. Such a loving act is about doing so because we believe such an act is right and appropriate for the situation.
Both the giving and the avoidance of credit are based in love; the first is love for the other person, the second is love for God.
When we do our acts of good because we know they are right – and we even do them in secret, when nobody is watching – our obedience has risen to the higher moral standard of Jesus.
The only obedience worthy of faith in Jesus is the obedience of doing what is right because we can.
QUESTIONS in REVIEW:
1. Think of someone so convicted to act obediently. Have they created the conditions of their obedience in any way?
2. How can you more fully commit to this higher moral vision of Jesus’?
© 2015 S. J. Wickham.
Note: USC version is Under the Southern Cross, The New Testament in Australian English (2014). This translation was painstakingly developed by Dr. Richard Moore, a NT Greek scholar, over nearly thirty years.