Hidden Nuggets Series #20 – “…you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor brother, but you shall open your hand wide to him and willingly lend him sufficient for his need…” – Deuteronomy 15:7-8
Giving is especially on my mind as we enter the holiday season. I recently talked about why people give for the wrong reasons and how dangerous that can be. I followed that up on Wednesday by describing the five step giving plan my wife and I use to decide where our money goes.
What I’ve realized is that personal finance is all about making intentional and wise decisions with your money. Giving is no different.
Through it all, there has been one common theme related to giving – our attitude.
Several years ago I heard someone speak about our mental attitude in relation to how we view money. This person used a powerful visual that has stuck with me ever since. I’d like to share it with you today because it has revolutionized how I think about money and the opportunities I have to give.
The Open Hand Symbolism
The Bible teaches that we are to care for those who are less fortunate. In the verses I quoted above from Deuteronomy 15:7-8, God commands we give to the poor. Our hearts should be sensitive to their need and we should give freely, generously and cheerfully.
There is however, something hidden deeper in these verses. It speaks to an internal attitude that has the potential to cripple our ability to truly prosper and be blessed through our giving. The attitude can be seen in an open hand.
I have a short exercise for you. (This post will mean much more to you if you play along with this game.)
Close your eyes and make your hand into a fist. Now try to squeeze your fist as hard as you can for about a minute. Ready? Go!
How does it feel? What is your body sensing? Do you feel the tension? Forearm getting tight…wrists locked up…fingers cramping? KEEP SQUEEZING!
What thoughts are running through your mind? Wish you could stop?
OK…minutes up. Whew!
Now try a different exercise. Open your hand flat, fingers extended, with your palm facing the ceiling. Ready to hold this for one minute? All right…begin.
What feelings do you notice this time? Are they different? More relaxing…less tension…more peaceful? How have your thoughts changed with your hand opened?
The Open Hand Debrief
In exercise one, all I could do was focus on the task. Trying to do that for one minute consumed my mind. It was all I could think about.
It also became increasingly painful as time wore on. My forearm was burning. At the end of 60 seconds, I had fingernail marks in my hands.
Exercise two in contrast was easy. In fact, I felt no pain and was very relaxed. I even found that after 20 seconds or so my mind starting drifting. My relaxed state allowed me to focus on some other things in my life for a few moments.
For these reasons, I would choose to attempt exercise two over exercise one any day of the week. It is funny though that, as it relates to money, we choose exercise one all the time.
The Clenched Fist vs. the Open Hand
A clenched fist or an open hand…these are the two vastly different approaches to money management.
When you hold your money tightly you seemingly have more control over it. Your money stays locked up with you. The mind focuses on possessing it and you work at keeping it to yourself all the time. It’s mentally consuming.
Your mindset in the clenched fist scenario is greatly controlled by fear of the future (“What if something awful happens and I need all that money?”). You may even have a little anger thrown into your spirit about something money related. And in some small way, you might be telling God, “You know what…I’m not sure I trust you enough or have enough faith that you will provide for me. I better control my own money affairs and keep all I can.”
The irony in the closed-fist scenario is that the more we try to control money, the more it controls us. And while it is true when we grasp our money tightly none will leave our hand, it is also true that we cannot extend a closed hand and receive anything into it. It will be a real challenge receiving financial or spiritual blessings with our fist locked in the tightly closed position.
It doesn’t make sense to think that when you hold your hand with an open posture and let money flow out of it that you will be better off. From my spiritual perspective though, it seems clear that the blessings of God flow to us when we trust in Him and obey. That blessing could be a financial or material return. Most likely it will be an internal emotional and spiritual return that impacts our heart and mind. This type of reward cannot be measured in earthly dollars. It is priceless.
What Stance Will You Have?
So how will you choose to manage your money? What will your body posture be? Will you hold your money tightly in the vice grip of death or choose to open your hand wide from time to time and give. I believe you will find more peace and prosperity if you make it a practice to live life with an open hand.
(Thank you Dave Ramsey for teaching this in FPU. It rocked my world!)
Questions: What was the open hand exercise like for you? Are you guilty of holding on too tightly to money? Is fear of the future controlling your money decisions and your giving? How does it make you feel when you generously give to others?
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Prior Post: Be Intentional: How to Develop a Giving Plan