01 July 2003         
of Jesus  
I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will


On the Right and Left Hand Rule

Why'd Jesus say, "Do not let your right hand know what your left is doing and also say, "Let your good deeds be seen by all men?"

My Answer

You will find it a paper that references this here.  However, it does not cover your special concern, which grows out of a seeming contradiction in these words of Jesus.  Here are the texts in question:


[16] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.


    [1] Beware of practicing your piety before men in order to be seen by them; for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
    2] Thus, when you give alms, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by men. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.
    3] But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,
    [4] so that your alms may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  
    This last utterance from Matthew 6 speaks for it self.  He means what he says, allowing for hyperbole in v. 3.  It is Matt. 5:16 where the problem arises -- which is no problem if we ponder carefully the Lord's words.  Let's look at it separately and compare it with an utterance from the Fourth Gospel, John 10:32:


[16] Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.


[32] Jesus answered them, I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?
Do you see the parallel?  Jesus has shown them, in John 10 (let your light shine) good works from the Father (give glory to your father).  He is only setting forth his own example of what, in Matt. 5:16, he is instructing his disciples to do.  Our resolution comes when we realize what Jesus' means when he speaks of "good works" or "works."  Again, we get this from the Fourth Gospel:


[10] Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works.
[11] Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father in me; or else believe me for the sake of the works themselves.
Again, do you see?  It is The words that I say to you that constitute the works!  To identify the works of Matthew 5:16 with good deeds as you seem to have done, is an assumption that all are prone to make.  But, if we listen to Jesus carefully, we see that his usual meaning in speaking of his works is not good deeds, but his precious words.

The utterance of these words in the world is the
shining of the light before men and constitutes the good works of which Jesus speaks.  So, Matthew 5:16 is not telling us to do our good deeds before men, but to let our light shine before men by proclaiming his Word.  This is the Work of God, and when we do it properly, some will glorify God because of the wonder of his Light!  

There is no contradiction between Matthew 5:16 and Matthew 6:1-4, but this is a fine example of what we should do when we see what seems to be a contradiction in the Word -- just investigate the Word carefully, related it to other utterances, and the contradiction disappears!

Peace to you!

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