Notice this physical impossibility:
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.
Hands can’t “know” things and his hearers knew that (why would Jesus make any reference to the mind here?) Jesus explained Himself immediately. But while He could have just said “When you give to the needy, do it anonymously,” He chose the hyperbole.
I was thinking about this post, where I recommended an investment to start early in your working life, which would make you stupid rich eventually. Then I found Scott Adams’ “Dilbert’s One-Page Guide to Everything Financial.” The list is reproduced below (click through if you want to see more.)
1. Make a will.
2. Pay off your credit cards.
3. Get term life insurance if you have a family to support.
4. Fund your 401k to the maximum.
5. Fund your IRA to the maximum.
6. Buy a house if you want to live in a house and can afford it.
7. Put six months worth of expenses in a money-market account.
8. Take whatever money is left over and invest 70% in a stock index fund and 30% in a bond fund through any discount broker and never touch it until retirement.
Some commentary: As a Christian, you are called to give joyfully, so #1 for you should be to return the tithe to your local church.
You should regard credit cards as slightly better than toxic.
Notice how #3 has “if you have a family to support” but #1 does not? Adams is suggesting that you get a will even if you’re single. As in, as soon as you graduate.
4 & 5 tell you to fund your qualified retirement accounts to the maximum but Adams does not provide an investment choice until #8. So use that. The dividend reinvestment gameplan I recommended earlier would work too. But #8 is fine, especially the phrase, “never touch it until retirement.” Huge.
That last point reminds me: this is a long-term list. Follow it your whole working life.
Incentives. I could stop there.
In business and in life, incentives make all the difference. Understand the incentives on both sides before engaging in a transaction. Most investment managers get paid for how much money they manage, not how much money they make you. Real estate agents are more encouraged to get your house sold as fast as possible than they are to get you the best price. Even the best natured of people can get lead astray by misaligned incentives. Align your incentives with the people you work with (clients, customers and partners) and you’ll get a lot more done, with a lot less frustration. Most importantly, only engage in activities that incentivize you to act in line with what you believe.
I think you got a taste of that lesson when you wasted hours at the DMV the other day. Even though I’ve seen worse DMVs (**coughCaliforniacough**) than the one here, you saw the results of poor incentives. The DMV does not have to attract you. You must come in if you want to function in society, unless you want to do this. Also, DMV workers are paid whether you are satisfied or not. So there is zero incentive for the DMV to provide a good customer experience. You’ll be back no matter how much of your time they wasted.
Most adults yawn at “wisdom” like this. We’re used to it. But it’s a great way to learn about how incentives matter hugely. Welcome to adulthood!
I think that Jesus used hyperbole to be a Great Persuader. From the Sermon on the Mount:
For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. (Matt. 5:18)
“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny. (Matt. 5:25-26)
If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt. 5:29-30)
All you need to say is simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one. (Matt. 5:37)
These are all hyperbole. Many Christians deny that every last letter of the law applies today (especially in the civic order), go to court, look at things they shouldn’t yet do not gouge out their eyes, and take oaths. What gives?