We all have things we hold with an open hand and things we hold with a closed hand. There’s a big difference between the two. To hold something with an open hand is to have it in your possession, to have rights to it, but not to protect it or view it as an entitlement. To hold something with a closed hand is to clench it and refuse to let it go.
Open hand. Closed hand. I endure anything for the gospel. For Paul, his rights were things he held with an open hand. If it is best for the kingdom of God, I’ll give them up. Go without. Make tents. Not have a wife along. Not receive support. Open Hand. Anything for the Kingdom.
The Closed Hand
With this picture of the open and closed hand, what do you have in each? Here are some things that are all too often in the closed hand of a Christian.
It’s my time. Mine. OK. Guess what serving in the Great Commission requires of God’s people? Time. Often it’s inconvenient time. So, what do you do when serving Jesus requires time that you mentally set aside for some overtime at work, relaxation, playing some game, watching other people play a game, or whatever?
It’s amazing to me how there are some Bethelonians who give lots of time to serving Jesus. They’re around a lot. Their name pops up a lot. They are serving and giving time. Other Bethelonians are too busy for anything. Their job, hobbies, families, kids’ activities, travel and vacations, there’s just no time! Even as I suggest that we all have the same amount of time and how we use it says where our priorities are, some of you are clenching your closed hand. “Don’t threaten my right to my time! I would but I am too busy, too much going on.”
Envisioned Ideal Life and Future
I think if we were honest about the typical American Christian, most want enough Christianity to be assured of heaven but not too much to interfere with their real pursuits, career advancement, nice moral children who get good grades, comfortable living, and a nice comfortable retirement. So here’s what happens. God’s goal is to conform us to the image of Christ. How does He get us there? Trials. Suffering. Unexpected turns in the road. When the turn is contrary to the envisioned ideal life and future, great conflict ensues.
I know of a family who is presently ministering to a Christian family in turmoil. The problem? One of their adult children has made the grave error of deciding to go into foreign missions. How dare she! Her mom is infuriated. Why? It doesn’t fit the mom’s plan. My daughter serving Jesus away from me on the mission field is not what I envisioned. Her fist is so closed on her dreams that she’s bitter towards God. Why can’t my daughter marry a nice young man, settle down in a home a few streets over from us? Here’s why: people are dying and going to hell every day all over the world and Jesus said, Go. Closed hand.
Money, Health, Control and Other Idols
There are few things we hold with a tighter fist than money. Or what we call our money. Yet there is no better indication of someone’s heart than holding their money with an open hand and generosity for kingdom work. How closed is your hand on money? Same with health and comfort; an easy life. You can know how tightly you hold them when they are threatened to be taken away. We want to be in control. We want to self-manage everything.
This is how Paul’s example of missional, Christ-focused living is so helpful. He said it this way in Philippians 1:21, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. He held his whole life with an open hand. Was Paul a fool or did he realize something we often don’t? In the words of Jim Elliot, He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose. It only seems like we can hold on to anything. What do we really control? Nothing.
God is glorified when we trust Him enough to hold everything with an open hand. God, you can take these from me because I believe what you will do with them is better. I want what you want, therefore all I have is yours. I have trusted you with my eternity; I can offer everything else to you as well.
That’s living with an open hand. Do you? You will likely find out because life reveals what we hold with an open and a closed hand. God is glorified when we hold everything to Him with an open hand.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
© 2009 Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s web site address (http://www.bethelweb.org/) on the copied resource.