“But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:4 (NIV)
“Pleased to meet you”, I said as I shook Miriam’s hand. She was introduced to me as the math curriculum supervisor at the homeschool company I was touring. My personal connection to the owner brought me to the business and now I was seeing who worked there in addition to how it was all run.
Suddenly, Miriam’s eyes shone with tears: “You are Laure Liversidge, right?”
“Why yes, that’s my maiden name.”
“Your grandmother changed my life,” Miriam asserted with a watery smile. “I used to clean for her. When I confided to her that I wanted to become a teacher, she gave me the funds to go to school.”
I was flabbergasted. The grandmother she was speaking of was the socialite, the wealthy Philadelphian who wore her mink coat to cocktail parties and fed lobster salad to her friends at her spacious summer home in Maine.
My childhood memories of this grandmother included the vision of a lit cigarette dangling from the fingertips of her right hand while the perfectly polished fingernails of her left hand gracefully held a sweating tumbler of expensive scotch on the rocks.
I loved and admired her, but I realize I didn’t fully know her because she gave in secret and no one found out what she did because she didn’t announce it to the world.
What is the test of true generosity? I don’t think it is the amount of the giving; it is the heart of the matter. Not only did my grandmother not announce her giving with trumpets like the hypocrites of Jesus’ day, but I don’t believe she made too much of it to herself .
Matthew Henry commented on the part of Jesus’ teaching about how the”left hand should not know what the right hand is doing:
“That we must not observe it too much ourselves: the left hand is a part of ourselves; we must not within ourselves take notice too much of the good we do, must not applaud and admire ourselves. Self-conceit and self-complacency, and an adoring of our own shadow, are branches of pride, as dangerous as vain-glory and ostentation before men.”
I recently heard another touching story about my grandmother. Years ago, when our childhood nanny asked to have her wedding rehearsal dinner at my grandma’s home, she answered “yes”, and then donned an apron and served the guests herself, including the bride-to-be’s mother who had been her cook for many years.
The state of our heart is what is important. God looks at it and promises to renew it when we ask.
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.” Psalm 51: 10 (NIV)