This post is a continuation of an earlier post, “Stealing My Gift (Sacrificial Giving, Part One).
When it comes to giving, where are my hands? That’s a question I’ve been contemplating lately. There is, I believe, a lot of confusion surrounding the act of Christian giving. Are we obligated to give? Are we required to give a certain amount? Where do we give? At some point, however, it comes down to a very basic question: Where is your heart? Where your hands are can be a good indicator of where your heart is.
When it’s hard to give…whether you’re giving your time, your money, or some other gift….Your hands are in a fist, face down, protecting what’s “yours”. Never mind that it all belongs to God, sometimes in the heat of the moment that fact just seems to get lost. It’s so easy to see it as “our” money, “our” time. God provides them all…no matter how hard you worked for it, your money can come or go in an instant (haven’t we all been reminded of that truth in the past few weeks?). No matter what you choose to do with it, time will pass as God ordained it to from the beginning of…well, time. Both are a gift that we are given, both come into our hands–and how they leave those hands tells a lot about our hearts. Our human nature seems to be to try and close our fist over those gifts, to squeeze them in our hands, draw them nearer to our hearts and horde them. It isn’t pretty, but it’s true. A closed fist, palm down, letting nothing out.
If my hand is closed tightly around my gifts…my time, my money, my talents…not only can I not give them away, but I also am not open to receiving. Nothing can get out, but nothing can get in, either.
I want to say right now that I am not talking about the “Prosperity Gospel”. I am not saying that if you give, you should expect to receive some monetary gift in return. That seems like a dangerous teaching to me, and it’s plain to me that it simply does not work that way. Bad things happen to good people all the time…it’s not a reflection of your faith if you are sick or poor or dealing with terrible trials in life. The righteous suffer along with the unrighteous, otherwise there would be no sick babies or starving children. The amount of money you do or do not have says nothing about the state of your soul, and the “Prosperity Gospel” seems to suggest that it does.
Giving with an expectation to receive back material blessings also doesn’t make sense to me…it takes away the “sacrifice” part of giving and puts in question the whole reason for the gift in the first place. The widow that gave everything she had in Mark 13:41 did not receive back ten times what she gave…we have to assume that she went home to struggle on without that money. Her heart must have been changed, she must have grown closer to God, she must have had to depend on him more than ever before and I am certain He didn’t let her down. Perhaps she had friends and family she could lean on in her need (which is a gift worth much more than ten times two copper coins!). But I am certain that if she had gone home to find a treasure chest overflowing with many times the amount she gave, the Bible would have told us that, too.
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.” Mark 13:41-44
But I digress. If we approach life with a closed fist, we are missing what could fall into our open palm…as we try and protect what might fall out of it.
Try it now…make a fist, turned palm down. Close your eyes for moment…what do you feel?
Now, turn your fist over. Open your hand, palm up, facing the sky. Do you feel different?
I was struck by how this simple gesture illustrated how it feels to give. The open palm feels vulnerable, and yet expectant….God is free now to do with my gifts what He wants. I am open to His will, ready to let time, money, and talents pass through my hands and into His plan. Free to receive whatever it is that He has in mind for me. Free to learn what He has in store, free to learn how to depend more on God’s grace, free to lend a hand or accept one.
An open palm…a gesture of trust, of faith, of acceptance.
Lord, let me live my life with an open palm. Help me pry my fingers away from what I am hording…money, time, talents, the gifts that are all from You….and trust You with them. Help me remember that You provide it all, and You will not let me down. Amen!