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Closed Hands and Open Hands

person Jane Brocklehurst
2 min

There are many different ways of owning what we have : fearfully, dutifully, guiltily, painfully, awkwardly, resignedly, gratefully, generously, joyfully.

This breaks down into two forms of ownership:

  1. holding with closed hands.
  2. holding with open hands.

Something held with a closed hand is out of sight and cannot be appreciated and enjoyed by the person holding it or by anybody else. The person holding on with closed hands will find it impossible to use their hands effectively for any other purpose. Inevitably, therefore, the possession held in closed hands will become the main focus of attention for the one holding it. King David warned : If riches increase do not set your heart on them (Psalm 62 verse 10b). It is true that the object held in closed hands is less likely to be lost or stolen but at what cost to the holder?

The New Testament gives an insight into God's attitude towards our possessions:

As for those who in this present age are rich, command them not to be haughty, or to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but rather on God who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.
(I Timothy ch.6 v.17 NRSV)

This sets enjoyment – joy – as the keynote for our relationship with the things we have.

The letter continues :

those who are rich . . . are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous, and ready to share. (verse 18)

Here is a succinct description of what it means to hold things with open hands, not so much as owners but as guardians looking for the right opportunity to make use of what we hold for good purposes. The things we hold can be seen and enjoyed while they are in our possession. At the same time the hands that hold them are open and available for the "good works" which we can offer to God as an act of gratitude for the things we enjoy.

This Bible passage helps us to understand what riches are for, as far as God is concerned, that is to share, to enable us to be generous. Holding with open hands we acknowledge that the riches to not really belong to us; God provides good things for us to give away. Holding what we have with open hands is a way of following the example of our generous God.

You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing (Psalm 145 v. 16).