Nicholas Ferroni states, “I was born a sinner … My sin is mentioned in the Bible 25 times. I tried to change, but couldn’t … Luckily, society learned to accept us left-handed people.” Others have followed in his footsteps, claiming that Christianity has long asserted that left-handedness is a sin.
Critics often scour the Bible for support for this position. They appeal to passages such as Matthew 25:41, which reads, “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” Because the wicked go off to the left here, then left-handedness must be a sin, making it a superstitious belief worthy of mockery.
Discrimination against left-handed people has been widespread. It occurs in a variety of different cultures, both Christian and not. However, the left hand has been seen both positively and negatively. It has been associated with wisdom and skill but also with bad luck. In many Asian countries, left-handed people are forced to become right-handed. In various cultures (and in Islam), the left is used for personal hygiene while the right is used for eating. In Ghana, gesturing with the left hand is considered very rude. And in the Soviet Union, all children were forced to write with their right hands.
The Roman Catholic Church punished children for being left-handed for years but there was no biblical warrant for doing so. Flimsy appeals to Scripture (Matthew 25:31-41; cf. Psalm 118:16; Galatians 2:9) cannot conceal the fact that condemning left-handedness as sinful is an utterly bizarre and thoroughly unbiblical notion. (This wasn’t the only time the Roman Catholic Church would be influenced by extrabiblical beliefs. For instance, when church officials opposed Galileo for supporting the Copernican view of heliocentrism, they did not do so on the basis of biblical texts but because of their dependence on Aristotle, who put forward a beautifully precise but thoroughly mistaken understanding of the solar system.)
The Bible makes no judgment against being left-handed. It does record instances where left-handedness has practical value, such as providing a critical advantage during military conflicts. In one episode, the Israelite judge Ehud meets with Eglon, king of the Moabites (Judges 3:15-30). The judge conceals a sword under his clothing when he visits the king. Thanks to this little bit of subterfuge, Ehud slips the weapon in undetected and uses it to kill the king and initiate a rousing victory over the leaderless Moabites. The text seems to imply Ehud’s handedness is an asset.
The book of Judges also mentions a brigade of 700 left-handed Benjamite slingers (Judges 20:16). It seems that ancient soldiers were sorted by handedness to ensure they didn’t hit one another (maybe in the same way that left-handed people often sit at the end of the dinner table to avoid bumping elbows with a right-handed neighbor). Further, most soldiers were right-handed and carried their shields on their left. This means that left-handed slingers enjoyed a slight tactical advantage because they had a better angle from which to strike approaching enemies. Elsewhere, ambidexterity seems to be celebrated as a positive attribute (1 Chronicles 12:2-3), and the left is still considered a position of honor (Matthew 20:21).
Left-handedness isn’t sinful. Anyone claiming otherwise simply hasn’t read the Bible very closely.