We are told in the Bible to help others (See Hebrews 6:10, Galatians 6:2, Deut. 15:11, etc.). We are told to love one another (See John 13:34-35, 1 Peter 4:8, Ephesians 4:32, etc). And when we obey these commands, Jesus tells us that we must do so in – Total Secrecy: “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.” (Matthew 6:1 NLT)
I get this. In giving us this advice, Jesus is protecting us from one of the most hated sins: Pride. This one thing was the reason Satan and 1/3 of the Heavenly forces fell (See Isaiah. 14:12-15, Revelation. 12:4). None of us likes to be with people who brag. Somehow it cheapens what they have done. But just what does Jesus mean when He goes on in vs. 3 of Matthew 6 to say, “But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” (NLT)?
Is this even possible? I mean, I’m one body, right? My right hand and my left hand are both controlled by the same brain, aren’t they? My right hand can’t do anything without the left hand knowing about it! Why would Jesus tell us to do something that is impossible?
Recently, God has made me aware that the primary reason I don’t reach out to others more often is that my agenda each day is more important than His agenda. I have been begging God to help me to become more loving, pleading with Him to help me to surrender my agenda to Him so that I am willing to drop my own plans in order to take up His. It’s a work in progress, but there have been times when I’ve succeeded in laying my own plans aside so that I could reach out to other people.
As I was contemplating this yesterday, I felt good. I felt like God was patting my back and saying, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” (Matthew 25:21 NLT). It was a good feeling, and as I basked in this feeling, I could feel my pride rising. Finally I was conquering this monster! Finally I was becoming more loving, more willing to surrender. I was digging my way out of this trap, and God was proud of me.
Wait. Was I feeling… Proud? Had God just revealed to me another layer of pride? One that was so cushioned in obedience to the Father that I didn’t even recognize it was there?
But we are supposed to feel good when we succeed at something we’ve worked hard for. What’s the difference between feeling good about something and feeling pride?
As I contemplated this, God placed this verse in my heart, and suddenly I knew what Jesus meant when He told us to do the impossible thing of not letting one hand know what the other is doing! He meant that when we do good deeds, not only it is for the Father’s glory in the eyes of the world, but it is for His glory, and not our own, in our own eyes as well!
You see, I had been congratulating myself on my success of finally surrendering my plans to God. But it wasn’t my success at all! Hadn’t I been trying for years to achieve this goal, with total failure? If my plans were surrendered to God, it was because of Him! He convicted me of the need. He placed it in my heart to pray for revival in this area. He empowered me to succeed! The glory wasn’t mine, it was His! I shouldn’t have been congratulating myself, I should have been congratulating… Him! Matthew 6:3 means that my left hand must acknowledge that it is God working through my right hand, not me!
This may have been a new revelation to me, but it actually isn’t new at all. Consider this verse from 1 Peter: “whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 4:11 ESV)!
Still not convinced? Remember the parable of the sheep and the goats? When God tells the “sheep”, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world.” (Matthew 25:34 NLT), their response is a bit surprising: “Lord, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?” (vs. 37b NLT). These “sheep” are actually — astonished! Why? Because they make a habit of following Jesus’ suggesting in Matthew 6:3: they don’t let their left hands know what their right hands are doing! They don’t take credit for themselves, they give all the glory to God!
I don’t know if anyone else has struggled with pride the way I have, but when God placed this revelation on my heart, He convicted me that I had to write it down. If you, too, are engaged in a pride struggle, just remember: You must recognize that whenever you do what is good, whenever you lovingly reach out to others, whenever you attempt to be the hands of God on earth, it isn’t of your own power or will or might! It is of God’s power. His will. His might. And if there is any success, it is Him who deserves the glory!
In His love,
Lynona Gordon Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two adult boys, Author — “Aboard God’s Train — A Journey With God Through the Valley of Cancer”, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, The Illustrator, a four-times-a-week internet newsletter, and the Sermon Illustrator website, all with Answers2Prayer Ministries.