Open-Handed Living

Jon Cobler —  December 17, 2014 — Leave a comment

God’s goodness finds its way to those with open hands. The 19th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew says,

Behold, a man came to Jesus, saying “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”

Paraphrasing the rest of the exchange; the young man says to Jesus, “Which ones?” Jesus replies, “Well, don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man stands up tall, and says to Jesus, “All of these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Let’s pause this exchange here and recognize this young man identifies that he’s following all the rules, but he also identifies that there’s something missing in his life.

Then, Jesus says to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess, and give to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The Greek word for “perfect” in this context is “full.” Essentially, what Jesus says to the young man is, “If you would experience fullness, you will do these things.” But when the young man heard this, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

Notice that Jesus instructs this young man: If you would be perfect, go and sell what you possess and give to the poor. Many people will read this text and think the problem was money. It’s tempting to think the problem was that God needed to subtract finances from this man’s life, so that he could experience God’s goodness. What we fail to realize is that the point of Jesus admonition to this young man is not that finances will keep you from the goodness of God; it’s that holding on to finances so tight because it’s the best you can imagine will put you in a posture where you cannot receive. You are living life, in this kind of scenario, with clenched fists, not open hands.

When you get to that place or achieve that thing that is good enough, but it’s not Good’s goodness, it’s tempting to hold onto it because it’s there – you can taste it, touch it, feel it, see it. It’s so tempting to think “This is the best I’ve ever had, so I’m not about to let go.T” It’s just that kind of that clenched-fist mentality, holding onto second-best, which keeps us from God’s best.

God is inviting you not just to have a knowledge of His goodness, but to experience His goodness. He’s inviting us not just to have a knowledge of a relationship with him, a knowledge of joy, a knowledge of peace. We miss out when we think that knowing is all there is. We can become great Pharisees, but we won’t become passionate followers of Jesus, when we limit ourselves to just knowing Him, but never experiencing Him. Here is some good news: if you’ve followed all the rules, you’re going through the routine, and even on the exterior everything looks good, but something is missing; what God is inviting you into today through Jesus Christ is not a façade. It’s not just the knowledge of, but it’s the experience of the goodness that flows from the one who flung stars from his fingers, and knows every hair on your head. He holds the universe together with the word of his mouth, and he’s here to demonstrate his goodness to you.

Jon Cobler