Blowing your own horn … but don’t let your left hand know it.

In 2007, my African friend was deferred a year by my denomination’s Ministerial Selection Board because in his interview he, “came across far too quiet and gave no evidence for having proven ministry.” Yet by the time of his interview he had planted tens of churches and was an avid evangelist to his tribe. So the following year I decided to help my friend succeed at the second attempt. “Let me introduce you to a phrase, for I am going to coach you in the art of Blowing your own horn!” Though I was leading him down the path of ordination my friend thought I was leading him down a sinful path and of course both paths are dissimilar!

I like to research where phrases come from. Mark Twain in a letter in 1859 wrote “Permit me to blow my horn”. But the phrase is also found 2 centuries before that.

Let’s see our next verses in Matthew:

“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honoured by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 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: 2-4)

Even Muhammed took these words of Jesus when he declared there were 7 people who would be protected from Judgment of Allah, the sixth being, “a person who practices charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given”. In the Old Testament there are numerous references to God’s people seeing the right hand as being strong and the left as weak. In fact in Ecclesiastes 10:2 the left is seen as foolish. Jacob blessed with his right hand; Ezekiel lay on his left side for 390 days in penance for the sins of Israel which was left of Judah and then 40 days on his right side (one day for every year of their sin) for the sins of Judah. Note: if you are left-handed don’t be condemned just switch it and the point remains. There is a side of us that continually wants to weaken the situation by claiming some recognition for achievement. Don’t let it happen when it comes to giving.

The picture Jesus provides is some kind of trumpet blowing when either you or someone within the community is bringing a gift. They did it to be seen.

Jesus says don’t do it to be seen by man but by your Father in heaven. This is the common root of his sermon and the exposure of hypocrisy that runs right through the centre of his message.

Many years ago a Church member offered me £20,000 so long as I told the church who had given the gift. I knew this request was revealing a hidden problem the man had of ego and control. I thanked him and refused the money but thought of the £20,000 for quite some time!

Every year philanthropic lists of people are produced showing how literally billions of dollars are given to charities. Every year people who die are then exposed as being the most wonderful secret givers. But they all give out of their wealth and whether alive or dead are praised by man. But then there are other givers. People like you. People who give out of their income regularly to the church, into a big pot of money to be used to pay ministers/staff to lead a giving church into the community and also to be used for the extension of God’s kingdom through mission and evangelism locally, nationally and overseas. No one knows. You don’t announce it when you give into the bag/plate or by standing order. You just do it and you have done it for years. It is probably the same amount every time but throughout the year you will give special larger amounts because you want to show thankfulness to God primarily. Your Father has rewarded you along the way and you have many stories no doubt but the promise of Jesus is that your Father will reward you. Whatever our life is like the other side it does seem rewards are there for us. Matthew will record later in Jesus’ sermon about storing up treasures in heaven. Secret giving does pay! But it is the Father who pays not people.

One final note: did my tuition in Blowing your own horn succeed for my African friend. Yes! He blew his own horn wonderfully and was accepted and ordained, though he had to repent later for self-promotion! Today this friend has planted innumerable amount of churches and seen thousands and thousands come to Christ.

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