With an open hand and tears in your eyes
My friend and I were sitting on the stoep having a chat. We had moved from people who found it difficult to give to stories about people who cannot stop giving. I wondered out loud whether people who give easily were happier people. As he left he summed up the evening’s conversation with a simple image. He closed his hand and said: When your hand is closed, there is not a convenient place where God can put his blessings.” Then he slowly opened his hand and there was no need to say anything more, because you can see how much space there is for God to put blessings into the open hand of someone who keeps on giving.
That’s the image I have of the Macedonians. Their hands were open. They couldn’t stop themselves from giving. They insisted on helping the poor Christians who were suffering in Judea while they themselves had hardly anything: 2…though desperately poor. The pressure triggered something totally unexpected: an outpouring of pure and generous gifts. 3I was there and saw it for myself. They gave offerings of whatever they could—far more than they could afford!—4pleading for the privilege of helping out in the relief of poor Christians.
These people weren’t motivated to give from their abundance. Neither did they say: “To give is the right thing to do, but let’s see how much we have left over at the end of the month.” They did not become involved in discussions about what percentage they were giving. They did not wonder whether the tithe mentioned in the Bible was a specific amount or a metaphor. Even less did they worry about whether it was before or after tax.
You see, they looked at it from the other side. The saw the need first. Therefore, they asked a different question. Not: “What do I have?”, but: “What can I give?” The focus was on the need itself. What is needed determines what should be given. Can you see that they didn’t start with their own resources or with what they had available. I think that if they had started with that, they would’ve said that they did not have enough themselves, how can they give to others?
But miracles happen when you allow the other person’s need to determine what you give. You give away more than what you have.
There’s a story about a pastor who visited a farmer and asked him if he had had 10 farms, whether he would give one farm to the Lord. The farmer said, sure, he would give one farm to the Lord. The pastor asked him if he had 10 tractors, whether he would give one for the Lord’s work. Certainly he would give a tractor! the farmer said. The pastor then asked him if he had 10 sheep, whether he would give one for the Lord’s Kingdom on earth. No, said the farmer. Surprised the pastor asked why if he would give a farm and a tractor, he was not prepared to give just one sheep? The farmer answered: Because I have 10 sheep …
It is easy to listen to stories, believing it’s good to give, but it is not so easy to keep your hand open and give away some of your hard-earned money. Even less is it my job to persuade you. It’s a matter between you and God. But I suspect we should be acting more like the people of Macedonia. A friend of mine in Windhoek always says you must give until you have tears in your eyes. Yes, maybe we should open our closed hands. I can guarantee you – you will be left speechless by what God puts in there.
How open is your hand?
Have you experienced the blessings of the Lord?
Where must/can you give?
Father, thank you for this message. I must confess my hand is not open enough. Please show me where I have to give. Please do not let the thickness of my wallet determine how much I give, but rather the other person’s need. Please help me to be sensitive to your voice. Amen