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Synopsis of Giving Hands
We’re about to slice a piece of the bread of life…. The word of God. And today’s slice comes from: Mark 12: 41 and Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. 42 and there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. 43 and he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: 44 for all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.
According to our lesson from the gospel for the day, we best show our gratitude by making use of the blessings with which God has showered us. I’d like to start today’s message with a story. A story of a poor artist who was regally entertained in a castle. It was one of the high moments in his life. However, he had nothing with which to repay his friends. Before leaving, however, he shut himself up in his room for some days, locking the door, and refusing to come out, or to let anyone in. When he finally came out and bade his hosts, “adieu!” a servant found the sheets of his bed missing, and thought that he must have stolen them. They searched further, however, and found the missing sheets in one corner of the room. Unrolling them they discovered a glorious picture painted upon them. The artist needed to say thank you. He did it by using the one gift that he had.
Back to Thanksgiving. Thanks – giving a two part word. I’ve in the past emphasized the first part…. Thanks. Today I’d like to direct our attention to the second….. Giving.
When our thirty three year old son, who is now forty, returned home from two years in Iraq let me tell you what I recall. He, several times, said to his mother and me …. “Thanks for all you did for me while I was over there.” Now… we both appreciated the verbal thank-you. Later, he gave me a piece of software for my data bank…. A GPS map system. I really appreciated it, and still well use it. It meant even more to me than the verbal thank you. It showed me that he thought enough of me to give of his money. Also, he helped around the house…. lift things…. repair things…. go get things…. cook a meal for us.. He gave of himself!
It reminded me that perhaps I, that is, we, might be so engrossed with just “saying thanks” ….. in prayer….. in song….. in worship…… that we may have forgotten about “giving” to the Lord. So, I’d like to illustrate three ways we express the nature of giving. We give with: ● the back of our hands, ● with closed hands, and ● with open hands.
First….. The back of the hand. A rather wealthy usher, after receiving his offering from the congregation would stand at the back of the aisle waiting the end of the offertory. Reaching in his watch pocket, he would pull out a dime, hold it a moment over the plate, and then drop it in. The pastor thought that for a man of substance to give in this way was to give with the back of his hand. The pastor later learned, however, that the man gave generously…. By check. You see, the dime was not a back-of-the-hand gift but a symbolic act of not returning a plate without some gift of his in it. But, perhaps this describes “giving with the back of the hand.
Second….. Closed hands. I call these computerizing hands. Before the gift is released, the brain goes into action computing the return, which reminds me of Theo, on the Bill Cosby show, who was miserable because he had given away something that he wanted for himself. He had received a pass entitling one person to dance with a gorgeous girl on a TV show. Wishing to be polite he had offered the pass to Cockroach, his best friend. Cockroach said, “No, you go.” Theo said, “No, you go.” After a series of “no, you go,” “no, you go,” Cockroach grabbed the ticket and rushed into the studio. Theo was devastated. Upon returning home, he took out his frustration on his family. His mother, Clare, finally found out why he was so out of joint. She told him, “Next time you give somebody something make sure you want to….. And, don’t expect anything in return.” Her remark means…. Don’t give with closed hands
Third….. Open hands. When we give with open hands we neither shove a gift at another nor do we compute the return. Along with the gift goes personal recognition. It does not have to be love or lifelong devotion; It can be respect for a job well done, appreciation for an attitude or a simple desire to make another happy.
Marriage would no longer be the primary institution for beginning a home if self were not given wholly with open hands. There is neither bargaining nor bartering. Parents continue giving themselves unconditionally, with open hands. The great heroes of the world St. Francis, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr. …..and the widow in our text …. .all gave unconditionally. And, Jesus gave unconditionally of himself to save us all.
Now let’s look at the fact that gifts may also be received in the same three ways.
First….with the back of the hand. A spoiled child accepts a gift and says, “Is this all?” The child does not receive by opening herself. Instead she has no concept of gratitude, only a concept of self.
Second. Receiving with closed hands. Here again I call these computer hands. Christmas comes and a person receives a magnificent stereo system, and says…..“Oh, well, thanks….” I suppose he had expected a Mack truck! Never enough, no matter how much is given. Is it big enough or just enough to bring genuine gratitude ? I’m sure we all know people who receive with slight calculations. Responses like these can destroy relationships.
Third….receiving with open hands. Folk wisdom has it that it is harder to receive than to give. Great self-assurance is required to let another do for us, when the normal temptation is to attempt to give more than the other. We find it hard not to “one-up” the other. Jesus says that we must be like a little child to receive him. Marriage cannot be truly experienced without innocent receiving.
So, you see, the three uses of the hand also give us a way to look at how we approach Jesus. How we give ourselves to him; and, at the same time, how we receive him? 1. Approaching Jesus with the back of the hand? 2. Approaching Jesus with closed hands? Computerizing hands. 3. Approaching Jesus with open hands?
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