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.