Living With Open Hands
To give unselfishly, to love the least of these
Jesus I’m learning how to live with open hands
All of these treasures that I hold will never satisfy my soul
Jesus I lay it at your throne with open hands
— Matt Papa, “Open Hands”
Lately the Lord has been teaching me to hold loosely the blessings that come from Him—to live unselfishly—to slay the idol of convenience and comfort. It doesn’t come without its challenges, especially when the Jones’ are doing this, and the Smith’s are doing that. But I’m finding incredible freedom in it.
In Nehemiah 8-9, the returned remnant from Babylon, led by Nehemiah the governor and Ezra the scribe, came under such conviction regarding the sin of their forefathers, that they formally and publicly repented as an entire people.
Verses 25-26 of chapter nine explain the sin that led them to the condition they were currently in.
“They captured fortified cities and a fertile land. They took possession of houses full of every good thing, hewn cisterns, vineyards, olive groves, fruit trees in abundance.
So they ate, were filled and grew fat, and reveled in Your great goodness.
But they became disobedient and rebelled against You, and cast Your law behind their backs and killed Your prophets who had admonished them so that they might return to You, and they committed great blasphemies.”
Notice the progression: They ate —- They were filled —- They grew fat.
The blessings of God led to obesity, which led to disobedience and rebellion, which led to a casting aside of the law, which led to murder and blasphemy. Blessings to blasphemy, with a few stops in between. Sin doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There was a progression of events that led God’s people down the path they were on.
The blessings of God had become their god. And no doubt their religiosity and knowledge of the law had led to spiritually full bellies. And spiritually full bellies with no spiritual exercise leads to spiritual obesity. Full bellies are prone to disobedience and rebellion when there is no action to accompany it—when there is no genuine love for Christ. The blessings of God had become their god.
In God is the Gospel, John Piper writes, “All the enticements to God that are not God are precious and precarious. They can lead us to God or lure us to themselves.” (p. 143) The challenge is just that—to allow the blessings of God to steer our hearts closer toward Him and to cause us to love Him more deeply rather than to direct us further away and cause our love for Him to grow cold.
I think that part of the answer to that challenge is living with open hands—understanding that everything comes from Him—that “none pay [Him] with anything that [He] did not, in the first place, give” (Augustine, Confessions)—that it all belongs to Him and is on loan to us that it might further enhance His glory.
God, we have tasted and seen that You are good. We’ve eaten, and we are filled. And now the very real danger is that we could become fat—spiritually unfit—bloated from an abundance of religiosity and divine blessings that we don’t deserve. Our full bellies are prone to rebellion. So, help us, O Mighty Spirit of God, to surrender the things that You graciously and generously give us, and that in doing so, we might be led closer to Your heart. Amen.