The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing

Published 8:11 am Tuesday, April 24, 2012

We have all heard the expression, “the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.” Over time, its meaning has gone from positive to negative.

I am not sure when the expression was first used, but the first instance that is well known is Jesus’ use in the Sermon on the Mount. I would describe his use of the expression as positive since he was not one to act negatively.

In his teaching about giving to those in need, he said, “when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” I think he was saying that our good offerings were not to be broadcast for praise unto ourselves, but to be given without a desire for such credit. One could be sure that God would see the goodness and credit would be given where credit was due.

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In other words, there is no need for tooting our own horns; don’t let the “left hand know what the right hand is doing.” That is a positive application of the saying.

Now, the expression almost always takes on a negative connotation. Most of the time, it is meant to describe situations of confusion or a lack of communication. A company, organization, or government has gotten so unwieldy that it is no longer easily managed. Just about every entity that wants to make it in this world has got to be pretty big.

When I was growing up, there was such a thing as a small farmer. In fact there were many of them — the farmer could take care or know about most every detail of his operation. Those days are gone.

Nowadays, the story about the farmer who was working such a large amount of acreage that he did not know what was going on in every field rings true. The story was really a joke about how, in February, the farmer was sending his hand onto a piece of land to prepare it for the upcoming year.

His hand calls back on his cell phone and says, “Boss, you won’t believe it, but we don’t need to harrow this field today. Get someone to send over the picker, we forgot to pick this field of cotton!” The left hand did not know what the right hand was doing.

The United States General Services Administration (GSA) has a mission. It states that the GSA is “to use expertise to provide innovative solutions for our customers in support of their missions and by so doing foster an effective, sustainable, and transparent government for the American people.”

That’s the gobbledygook from the GSA website. It speaks of “customers.” That’s us for we are the American people. In another place, the website says that the GSA “oversees the business of the U.S. federal government.”

Let me see if I can put this in words that you and I might understand. In regular words, the GSA is to provide oversight into the workings of Uncle Sam to make sure that we get the most out of our hard-earned tax dollars. If I continue to use my expression regarding left and right hands, the GSA is supposed to make sure that the left hand knows what the right hand is doing.

Of course that is impossible. The federal government has gotten so big that there is not enough vision in the entire world, this side of God Almighty, to see from one side to the other. The left hand is so far away from the right that knowing what either is doing is impossible if that makes any sense.

That has been proven with great clarity recently and the irony is incredulous. The very agency charged with making sure that our government performs at a maximum level has been caught with its pants down. It is the greatest example in history of the fox guarding the henhouse.

Unless you have been hunkered down in some cave without television, you have seen the clown, the mentalist, the rap video, and the unvarnished view of just how this governmental agency spent almost a million dollars hooting and hollering, living it up in Las Vegas, as they did the people’s work.

It was not a surprise to see this kind of waste of taxpayer money. It was simply a confirmation of what we already know. The government of the United States has no regard for its people. The Congress will fulminate at the mouth and feign outrage. Wow! I’m sure we will get to the bottom of it now!

The President is said to be “apoplectic.” Is that mad or angry? I wonder which scandal has caused him more apoplexy? GSA or Secret Service agents in Colombia? Or could it be Fast and Furious or Solyndra?

I don’t really want to pick on the President or the Congress or the agencies that are charged with helping us. I would simply like to make a statement about our federal government. The same statement might apply to all of the governments, state and local. They have gotten too big and they cost too much.

Every year is an election year in our country, but this one is a “biggie.” There will be plenty of campaign sloganeering, all or most of it will be hot air. I will vote and my vote will go to the candidate who can best convince me that they want to run a government where the left hand will know what the right one is doing. I just hope that person is running.