The Sermon on the Mount: Day 15

How to Give


Today's Text: Matthew 6:1-4, Proverbs 24:12, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 1 John 2:28-29

Scripture Reading: Matthew 6:1-4, Proverbs 24:12, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10, 1 John 2:28-29

In the 1960s, an innovative surgeon began work on a procedure that would separate the right and left hemispheres of the brain in order to stop seizures in patients with epilepsy. They called it the “split brain” surgery. It was a desperate measure—a last resort. The idea was to keep seizures originating on one side of the brain from spreading to the other side.

But cutting one side of the brain off from the other had some powerful and strange side effects, like one side of the body working independently of the other, not necessarily responsive to the will of the person inhabiting it. Instead of working as a seamless whole, it was as if one side didn’t know the other.

I wonder if this violence to the brain is the only way for the left hand not to know what the right hand is doing. My left and right hands are best friends. When righty donates money to a good cause, lefty is already standing by for the high five. In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He is showing us what it really looks like to be a Christian. And when it comes to our own righteousness, He makes it clear that both hands, intertwined, are guilty of selfishness.

Even more than we love to know others, we love to be known. We go to great lengths to make sure people know us, or at least know our good side. This is the problem Jesus was getting at in today’s passage: Have any of us have ever acted purely for the sake of others, with no thought of our own reputation? It’s a terrible thought, when you really parce out your motivation for one specific good action.

Perhaps at our best moments, we have forgotten ourselves, given of ourselves freely, asked nothing in return. But if your heart is like mine, I can still recollect these moments of selfless triumph and try to cash them in for glory after the fact. Even at our best, we act from mixed motives. If we don’t get at least a little recognition, a simple thank you, or a smile in return, we feel slighted. But Jesus says that if we’re getting applause from others, then we already have our reward. He cautions us to humbly give in secret—so much so, that our left hand won’t have any idea what the right hand is doing (Matthew 6:1-3).

There’s no tally sheet. Our good deeds won’t be weighed against our bad deeds on a shining celestial scale because there’s no scale. There is only Jesus Christ, who writes our names in the book of life (Revelation 20:15; Luke 10:20). The ledger is stamped with Christ’s name, and when my life is counted, His righteousness is the only thing in view.

This can easily tempt me to clasp my hands behind my head, lean back, accept His grace, and give up worrying about good or bad actions all together. But both extremes of law and grace miss the mark. God is love, and He has filled us up with His love; therefore, our response is now to love in turn. We do good things because it is the only sane response to all the love that has been given to us. We do good things because our hearts are delighted by our heavenly Father. We do good things because we have learned to rejoice in giving rather than getting.

Let your right and your left hand work with diligence at doing what is good and right. Rest in the safety of His atoning love. Pour out the love that He has given you to others, because God is love, and there will always be more.


  • I can totally identify with this. The Bible constantly exposes my selfishness; not just in giving but in pretty much every area of life. I care about things to the extent that they impact or inconvenience me. I actually love giving. But pride – even if it is just a smug feeling of having done something good – is always there. I don’t know that I will ever be free of every selfish motive in this life, but I hope and pray that at least some of what I do is acceptable to God.

  • Avery Brennan

    Something I’m dealing with is having to record volunteer hours. It always makes me feel as if I haven’t done any good when I have to get a signature and turn in a sheet of what I did. For me it takes away working for God and turns it into working for other motivations. Im in a situation where I need to record hours and I’m very conflicted because it just gives the good work a shallow feeling. What do y’all think?

    • Becky

      I honestly would not stress over this. You are required to get the hours and to get the documentation. It is your heart that ultimately matters here. Nothing is stopping you from going above and beyond and pouring everything God gave you into being the best volunteer you can be. Depending on your circumstances, you probably won’t have to document volunteer hours forever. And when that time comes, you can volunteer as much as you want to whatever you want. Use this time to explore your giftings and passions.

  • Kristen Clegs

    I finished today’s lesson with one question in my mind: How do I intentionally create a climate for pure motives in my heart?

    • Kristen Clegs

      Like Rebecca says, I think it comes down to KNOWING.
      – Know God. Study Him. Only in this can I grow my love for Him, my delight in Him, my joy in Him.
      – Be known by God. God made us with the need to be known, to be seen, to be valued; so He gave us prayer, the place we initiate communication, the place we invite Him to see our hearts, the place we let Him know our deepest good and bad.

      • Amy Rose

        I also think it comes down to the question: Did the Holy Spirit Guide You? I’ve always sensed a difference between selfishness guiding me or the Holy Spirit. I’ve had to seek forgiveness for the times my heart was not in the right place.

  • churchmouse

    In my family of origin, I often felt invisible and throughout other times of my life as well. My self esteem was way down low. So it’s understandable that I would crave any crumb of kindness or word of recognition. A compliment was Treasured with a capital T. Unfortunately, such hunger can lead to proclaiming accomplishments in subtle (or not so subtle ) ways or in name- dropping. That is certainly not God-honoring and something I daily have to work on. Invisibility created a deep wound from which I’m still recovering. I’m so thankful that I’m always seen by my good good Father. It is His acceptance that is most valuable. His heart beats with love for me and I marvel to this day.

    • Djoiie

      I feel this so much. Thank you for sharing.

    • Bridget

      I have felt invisible too, Churchmouse, in my family of origin. I am realizing that is something my parents struggled with as well. In big ways. They did not know the love of God and that He sees us even when nobody else does…so they could not model and teach that. It’s complicated. I just wanted to say I get it. ❤️

    • Jacqueline Mace

      I had a similar experience growing up. Thank you for sharing. I needed to hear that today.

    • Chris Gruhlke

      I for one, am grateful for you Churchmouse. I look forward to reading your posts. It is clear to me that God is using your life to pass on your experiences so that all of us can learn a little more and grow a little closer to Him. Thank you and many blessings to you!

    • Tori

      Thanks for sharing churchmouse. What you shared reminded me of a sermon we had from a guest speaker at my church a few weeks ago. Its all about how God sees us when we feel unseen. I’d encourage you to take a listen to it if you ever need a reminder of how seen and loved you are. ❤ (it’s the one called God sees you)

  • Loving this study– just got the next study book in mail!! You girls just keep producing not only great biblical study, but beautiful study books!! Can’t wait to get into it!! Thanks.

  • I’ve think, maybe, that the left hand not knowing what the right hand is giving is more like it comes so naturally that you’re really not conscience of doing it. Kinda like it’s second nature or just part of who you are and what you do, no big deal, no decision required. I read something similar in a book by Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

    • Becky

      One of my New Year’s Resolutions this year was to gift someone every month. It could be a physical gift or a note of appreciation. My goal is that by making a conscious effort to pay attention to the needs of others or to notice ways that others are a blessing to me. I hope that as I focus on this, it will become more and more natural. I hope to be the kind of person who just sees a need and meets it or who writes the note of encouragement without having to think “who can I gift this month?” I guess it’s like cultivating any kind of habit.

  • For over 35 years my husband and I operated an open door policy,he was an ordained church minister.We had countless numbers of people who came to share their joys and sorrows and I made countless cups of tea as we offered friendship and ministry,but the guiding principle was,it is not a question of status but of function
    God had placed us in a position of being able to help others
    Now we are retired,both in our seventies, and my husband has health problems,his ministry now is praying for our church fellowship and writing (proper letters,not email)to anyone who is ill or in hospital,and again it is not status but function.The Lord puts in our path those who need us, and quietly we can obey
    So ,yes we can do good deeds if the hand of the Lord is the guide

    • Cathy

      Your actions warm my heart as I think of those who’ve been ministered too, or who receive a letter. Too often this falls short of what is needed, in my experience of ‘building a church’ and teaching. Compassionate heart serving Gods love to others. God bless your ministry, your husband health, and your own.

  • Arriana

    Great devotional. I am about to be married next month (yay!) and am currently reading “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. Much of todays devotional correlates to what I’m reading. A big conviction I am experiencing is letting go of the selfishness that is natural to have as a single woman. If I do something nice for my fiancee, I am always hoping he will say something and/or notice. Today this opened my eyes that the big picture is what God sees in my good deed and not expecting a return on any of it. Choosing to love and not expect a return all of the time, is a part of marriage that I have given thought to but not enough. Thank you for this today. Peace & blessings to you all.

    • Rachel

      Having been married for 6 years (also yay! and congratulations to you :) ), this is a good reminder for me too. So thank you! My husband doesn’t always notice when I do something for him, or for our home, and I NEED to be okay with that. I’m not always. I’m still learning. I’m constantly fighting against my selfish nature, fighting against not wanting to do what I know is right because I don’t think I’ll be noticed. “Choosing to love and not expect a return.” This is my prayer today.

      • IAB

        Another great book to read – by far best marriage book I have ever read and wish I would have read sooner – The Meaning of Marriage by Keller (Timothy) – I think. Such a reminder of what marriage was designed for !!

  • Almost this time last year, SRT came into my life when I was suffering in a relationship. It helped bring me closer to God, and when I heard his spirit tell me to leave, I did. I left in December. Yesterday, my suspicions about the relationship were confirmed. It was deception city. To make it worse, my friend’s husband was also involved and she’s now seeking divorce and she has two small kids. Deception. City. There is no reconciling because even Jesus said there was no reconciling this. God told me in my heart about what I thought was the case in January, but to have it confirmed this way and to know how it is hurting my friend and her kids feels unbearable. Please pray for my friend and her children. Please pray my heart of stone turns into a heart of flesh. Please pray for my ex and the father of her children. I believe God makes us all who we are. And I believe my purpose is to love without judgement. Trying to get back to my purpose. Please pray for us, sweet sisters. Please please pray. Especially for my friend and her two small kids. Thank you and I love you all.

    • Kara

      Sending love and prayers your way, Lana. Im so sorry for your heartache. ((Hugs))

    • Erin

      Anytime I hear of heavy deception, my heart is just so grieved (and so is the Father’s!). :( I’m so sorry that you and your friend were swept up in such circumstances. Praying for you and all that are involved, Lana. Deception is so painful, but I’m so thankful that God can use even that to bring about good when we are obedient to, and wait on him. I hope you and your friend can seek refuge in him together. *hug*

  • Diane Huntsman

    A famous theologian or Pastor, I can’t rightly recall, said that, “even our purest of motives are tainted with sin”.. for me I can say that’s true.. there’s always some of me in a good deed.. I’d like to think it’s possible to do good for the soul purpose of the others good, but in my 49 years of breath taking I’ve yet to experience it.. but I’ll keep trying because He did good and I must follow His example..

  • Rebecca! This was a wonderful, beautiful devotional. I have been reading Mourning and Dancing, but I just had a feeling that I should check out the devotional for today instead. I am so glad that I did. This was beautifully written, so understandable, and brought a new depth to this passage that I often quickly run over because I figured…”I know how to give!” I was so wrong. Thank you for sharing this. Thank you thank you!

  • Katalina

    Sisters! I have some news :) I’ve decided to start my own business (which is an ongoing process) but I finally created an Instagram page where I will be blogging and trying to bring hope to others. I’ll be starting with my Instagram page and while I grow my audience there, I’ll be building a website where I share my story and my testimony on how to make the best out of life and get through the struggles that we have to face. This is for anyone who needs somebody to listen, to hear some encouragement. There’s no judgement or false advertisement of a perfect life. I’ve prayed for years about what I’m supposed to do with my life and God has finally answered! I truly feel in my heart He has called me to help those who have gone through what I’ve gone through. It won’t be a religious account or website but through my testimony, if I can bring at least one person to Christ, I know I made no mistake in choosing this career path. Your support will mean the world to me as well as your prayers. And if you have anybody in your life that needs someone to talk to, please don’t hesitate to tell them to contact me or if they want to share their story. I’m not an expert but I know how to listen and I would love to share other peoples stories as well as mine ❤️ spread the word for me and I will be forever grateful. This community means so much to me and I thank you for all the support you’ve given me. my page is @triumphantf and my email is katslet[email protected]

  • Caroline

    “There’s no tally sheet. Our good deeds won’t be weighed against our bad deeds on a shining celestial scale because there’s no scale. There is only Jesus Christ, who writes our names in the book of life (Revelation 20:15; Luke 10:20).” What a peaceful feeling to be reminded of this (again). Sometimes I think I fall into this habit of envisioning God as this celestial, omnipotent supervisor who is constantly watching me with a clipboard, taking notes for my final “performance evaluation.” I think I get so caught up in the world’s norms of constantly being judged that I forget the final judgement is already taken care of – Jesus died for me, and, because of that, every earthly deed of mine is overwritten with words like “grace,” “forgiveness,” “salvation,” and His Name. Thank you, Father, for the incredible gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, so that I may rest in the peace of knowing I am in your kingdom, and that I may show love without fear.

  • I love being reminded that our good deeds are for God and not for our glory. I truly am thankful for this reminder. I used to make a point not to let people see my good deeds but lately I have gotten lazy and I have been doing them more publicly. I have to honestly say that I like the praise. When you secretly give groceries or other things know one says thank you. I didn’t realize how sneaky pride can be. I feel like my heart has become so dark. Thanks for the light of the gospel that shines so bright for folks like me who need a lot of extra help.

  • katherine

    This devotion reminded me to look to God always. When I feel “empty” and unable to show another love, I need to remind myself to look to God. Remind myself of Christ and His sacrifice and all the love he showed for me before I was even born. Praise to be to God!

  • PursuedByHim

    I like the idea of doing things for people without others knowing and secretly storing up treasures in heaven from God that only He knows about. When I think of the things I try to do in secret, though, it seems there really is nothing I can do here on this earth that someone else doesn’t know about. If you do something kind for someone else, they tell others because they are thankful. I am married, so my husband knows my secrets! There really is not much I can do that someone else doesn’t know about.

    So, where does that leave me with this?

    • Marti

      It isn’t really so much about doing things completely in secret, because of course when people are thankful for what you have done for them, they naturally want to tell others. Even Jesus encountered this problem. He often told people that He had helped not to tell others, but they did it anyway. I believe the point is to not seek credit for doing good, because we are doing these things for God’s glory, not our own. Hope this helps clear things up a bit for you. God bless!

    • Jen

      I don’t think the point was that giving has to be done in complete secrecy. It’s about the motivation behind the giving or the desire for credit afterwards. I’m reminded of the option on GoFundMe or Youcaring websites to give anonymously. I have rarely chosen that option and if I’m completely honest, it was probably because I wanted the receiver to know that I had donated. In my humanness and pride, I like receiving earthly credit for the good I do. But God’s desire is that I give out of a pure love and that His seeing should be all the credit need.

      • ssbbaker

        Fun fact: even if you choose to donate anonymously on GoFundMe, the recipient will still know it was you who donated – your name will only be hidden from everyone else. I think there’s a lesson here… :) Giving selflessly and without expecting praise is a challenge on ALL levels. But isn’t that what makes a good gift good? That it was intentional?

    • Melanie Bisson

      I believe you’ll know when the opportunity hits. As an example, I was in a car accident that gave me a spiral fracture in my right index finger and caused me to have surgery and be out of work and graduate school for some time. When the lawsuit payout came in, the lawyer told me it was the most he’s every seen for this type of injury. Thank you, Jesus. My husband and I didn’t tell anyone. Instead of writing a personal check for the two months of mortgage we were paying for the church, we went to the post to do it anonymously. We didn’t want the Pastor to know who it was. We were anxiously waiting the announcement at service, so we could giggle privately, but it never happened. I had finally felt what it meant to give without recognition. Jesus knows what we did and that’s all that matters.

      It can be as simple as giving to a homeless man or donating your time and not running to Facebook to share with your friends afterwards. Moments like that.

  • This devotion brought a smile to my heart! I love the reminder that “the ledger is stamped with Christ’s name, and when my life is counted, His righteousness is the only thing in view.” My good and bad deeds aren’t tallied up. I took the last paragraph and made it my prayer for today.
    Papa God, I pray that today my right and left hand will work with diligence at doing what is right and good. Help me to rest, to abide, in Your atoning love. Help me to pour out the love that You have given me to all my students and all the teachers I work with. Don’t let me take for granted what Jesus did for me on the cross. I pray, Papa God, that my heart will delight in You today. Help me to rejoice in giving. I praise You, because you are love and I am so thankful that there will always be more of that love. Amen.

    • Tina

      Praying this prayer alongside you… thank you Lord.. .thank you…

    • Robin W.

      Amen. As a fellow teacher, I stand in agreement with your prayer and ask for the same ability to pour out the love that our sweet Jesus gave so freely. ❤️

  • Sisters, I have a job interview today. I know in my heart that if it’s God has planned for me to get this job, I will. But I just need to control my nerves and allow him to take over. If it’s not his plan for me, than I can accept it. Praying for all of you out there with small and large challenges today. We’re in this together! ❤️

    • Dana

      Was in the same situation recently Ruth. Rest in Him. Ask Him to give you wisdom and peace. Praying for His will. And…go get um’! : )

    • Lesley

      Praying for peace and the right outcome, Ruth, and that you know God with you today.

    • Kathy

      Praying! God has got this, no matter what!

    • Nancy

      Prayers for you this morning Ruth!

    • Tina

      Praying peace over you sis… and that God will meet you and your interviewee where you are in His will.
      Blessings.. x

    • Katalina

      Praying for your interview Ruth! He is with You just like we are ❤️

    • Brenda


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