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An Open Hand: The Most Powerful Money Visual Ever

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

money in open handGiving 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.

An Exercise

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?

Time’s up.

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?

Image courtesy of Neerav Bhatt at Flickr Creative Commons

Next Post: My 8 Step Method for Writing a Blog Post

Prior Post: Be Intentional: How to Develop a Giving Plan

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  1. There definitely has to be a balance. As long as our eyes aren’t fixed on our money more than they are on our God, then I think we’re doing alright.

  2. Travis Pizel says

    I tried the “open hand” method, and it got me $109,000 in debt. I’m now clenching that fist, thinking about money all the time. Questioning every expense, every expenditure, tracking everything. I’m now 3 months from having that $109K of credit card debt gone. If it’s on my mind at all times, I have control over it, and I manage it correctly. That’s just me….I need that right now – maybe some day I can let go a little bit but not now. 🙂

    • “Questioning every expense, every expenditure, tracking everything.” I don’t see anything wrong with that Travis. I do those things myself. For me, the open hand analogy isn’t about loose spending though, it’s referring more to an internal attitude. As I live my life, I want my spirit to have the attitude of always being willing to give to others. But I’m not just throwing money around at whatever. As I talked about all week in my series on giving, I have a specific plan set in place that helps me know when is the right time to give.

  3. I have mixed feelings about this really. It’s just not as black and white as opening your hand or making a fist. I totally get how if you let fear of not having enough money rule your life, it’s a very stressful way to live, but I’ve almost but TOO much trust in an “open hand” and it got me in a pretty bad situation. I think maybe I just look at it differently. You can maybe have a loose grip on your money…in other words just being more conscious of where it goes. BUT, that still means I need to be VERY careful of not letting myself slip up and spend money I don’t have…trusting that god or the universe or whatever will provide. It’s odd when spiritual beliefs meet cold hard facts. Money is actually very real, but your faith is a belief. Which do you trust more? What’s right in front of you or the higher power? Just some food for thought. 🙂

    • I understand what you are saying. And I’m not one for blindly giving or free-wheeling spending. The “open hand vs. fist” analogy mostly addresses our mindset about money. I can develop a plan for my life that lets me be frugal and disciplined but still live with an attitude of thankfulness and have a giving spirit. That’s kind of what this series on giving has been about. As to which do I trust more…the higher power. But my trust doesn’t discount the fact I’ve got to be diligent and wise and work to provide for myself. Trust vs. self-determination…it’s a definite balancing act to be sure.

    • Tope williams says

      Hello Tonya reading through your reply, I can’t help but comment on this. The analogy of an open hand is one I find interesting with its potency in line with revealing the posture of our heart towards giving. In my opinion, most of the time when giving goes wrong it’s most likely that we have an expectation behind or motives certain intentions. I understand that money is a very sensitive issue but we cannot afford to be too attached to it such that it controls our behavior.

  4. Brian, this is definitely something that I struggle with and I think many people struggle with. I’m all for building an emergency fund and being smart with money, but there is a point where you simply aren’t trusting the Lord with your future and letting fear consume you.

    • It is one thing to let fear consume you. That definitely shows a lack of trust. But I don’t think the concepts of planning and trusting are incompatible. From my reading, the Bible teaches both. In fact, we see many Bible characters demonstrating both aspects, most notably Joseph in Genesis as he planned for the drought conditions in Egypt.

  5. Love, love this, Brian! This has been a great series and I have to go update my weekly round-up since I said it was a two-part series. 🙂 I see so many people who are so consumed by money, whether they have a little or a lot. And they are all unhappy because they live in fear of losing it. On the other hand, I also remember a client who had very little but was so incredibly joyful. Why? He knew he didn’t have much but he used every penny with purpose and joy. And that’s the same lesson my father taught me, when I use money in alignment with my values and goals, I can create joy for myself and others. Love the visual, love the exercise. Have a great weekend, Brian!


  1. […] had a wonderful three-part series on Giving for The Wrong Reasons, How To Develop a Giving Plan and An Open Hand: The Most Powerful Money Visual Ever. Being philanthropic is important to me and I love how Brian and his family have put together a […]

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