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What does Matthew 6:3 mean by "don't let the left hand know what your right hand is doing"?


Matthew 6:3

ESV - 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.

Clarify Share Report Asked May 04 2016 Data Lee Pigg

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I am blessed to have seen the very soul of this object lesson given by Christ. The action I am about to describe shows the exact meaning of what I believe Jesus was teaching.......

I was standing with my daughter Lauren in the check-out line at our local Walmart. It was fairly busy that day and the lines were three customers deep. Just in front of us was a young couple with a three year old daughter that seemed anxious and nervous as they were adding up the products from their shopping basket. 

For some reason, my daughter became very attentive to their purchase. I too began to take notice that they were paying attention to what was purchased first and putting some items at the end of the conveyers line of products. One by one, items such as deodorant, disposable shaving razors, and personal items for her, began to show up at the end of the line.

There was a little child's book on the conveyer that was placed in front of what seemed to be the necessities of a normal adult. It was clear that they were shopping with limited funds and were prepared to sacrifice at the mercy of their pocket book.

Suddenly the couple asked the checker for the total thus far. The items left being what most people would consider common necessity. Food and a child's book seemed to be all that their purchase was comprised. It was heart breaking. The panicked look upon both their faces and the forming of a tear in my daughter's eye caused me to contemplate my personal intervention. But the Spirit of God had already acted.....

My daughter tapped the young mother on the shoulder and said to her, "I think you dropped this". Pointing to the floor at what seemed to be a wadded up clump of money, the girl bent over and retrieved about thirty dollars of assorted ones and five dollar bills. The girl began to hand the money back to my daughter when Lauren explained, "Finders keepers"......

The couple made all their purchases at that point and seemed relieved as they both sighed with a breath of fresh air. As they pushed their cart away, the young woman turned and looked at my daughter. She paused a moment and with a quiet whisper said, "Thank you". Lauren simply smiled and gently nodded her head.

After the couple was out of view, a lady in the line next to us said to Lauren, "I saw what you did. That was the most beautiful thing I have ever seen"......I was elated that my precious Lauren had mastered the art of cheerful giving and had grown to be such a kind soul.

When we finally got to the car and loaded up our purchases, I sat in the front seat and looked over at her fully aware that it was her money that was found at the check-out. I prepared to acknowledge her kindness when she stopped me with this comment.....

"Papa, this is a case where I am the left hand and you are the right. Please, say nothing more of this. The money belonged to God."

I must admit a father's pride in her good work that day. But what I must truly admit is a clear understanding of what it means to give secretly and from the heart. I believe the gifts as well as the prayers we give to God in secret are held in great esteem. These are the gifts rewarded by God unscathed by the accolades of man. Giving without desire for a tribute is precisely the meaning of this concept. 

A gift from the heart given without desire for accolade is a tribute to the Author of Love, JESUS, THE ONE WHO GAVE ALL.

Dean Donahue, Show Low, Arizona

May 07 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Tim Maas Retired Quality Assurance Specialist with the U.S. Army
In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is contrasting differing methods of giving money for charitable or religious causes.

Some people in Jesus' day made a habit of calling public attention to their acts of giving money for these purposes, as well as the size of their gifts, in order to make sure that everyone knew about them, and so that they might be praised by other people for their goodness and benevolence.

The gifts may have been for legitimate causes, but the motive of the givers was entirely prideful and selfish, and focused on making sure that they would be publicly perceived as generous and philanthropic. Jesus said that, because of this, the praise of other people would be all that these individuals would ever receive for their actions. They would not receive approval or reward from God.

Instead, Jesus told His disciples not to follow their example, but to give gifts without calling attention to them, and to take such great care to assure that other people did not know about them that, if the disciple were giving a gift with their right hand, even the disciple's own left hand would not know what their right hand was doing. Then God, who could see things that were done in secret, would reward them.

In this teaching, Jesus (as He often did) was using exaggeration (hyperbole) to make His intended point more forcibly and memorably.

He employed the same rhetorical device on other occasions when He accused the religious leaders of straining out a gnat, but swallowing a camel (Matthew 23:24), or when He said that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 19:24).

May 05 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

Mini Ella Brown
The instructions about the left hand and the right hand prohibit a person from celebrating their own acts of righteousness. Give liberally, but never dwell on the fact that you do so. (HSB)

May 06 2016 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

My picture Jack Gutknecht ABC/DTS graduate, guitar music ministry Baptist church
We should give in such a way that our left-hand does not know what our right hand is doing--that is, it should be done privately and in secret. -- Matthew 6:3

Why? That thine alms may be in secret. Jewish tradition said that there was in the temple a "chamber of secrets" into which the devout used to put their gifts in secret so that the poor could receive support therefrom in secret. -- Matthew 6:4

Why else? “that your Father Who sees in secret Himself shall reward you openly.” Matthew 6:4

The main point of the giving Jesus spoke of in Matthew 6:3 is Humility!

December 21 2019 0 responses Vote Up Share Report

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