Saturday, October 22, 2011

Empty Hands

Last night our family ate dinner at the night market, a popular spot in Lanzhou for all kinds of local street food. We ate bowls of spinach noodles (Charly’s and my favorite) at one stall, and drank hot milk/egg drinks with nuts (Jordan’s favorite) along with spicy mutton sticks (CJ’s and Joshua’s favorite) at another stall.

At the first stall, a man sitting at our table stood up and left with a bowl of half-eaten noodles at his place. Immediately, a beggar appeared and our eyes met. I’ve never seen eyes so hungry and desperate for food. He took the man’s place and quickly consumed those noodles before moving on silently into the night.

At the second stall, we observed the man sitting across from us, wearing a slick leather jacket and talking into his IPad. He was enveloped in an air of self-sufficiency. A different beggar appeared at his side and would not leave. The man felt annoyed and called out to the owner of the stall, as he waved his chopsticks in the air, “Do something about this beggar here!” He clearly did not want to be bothered with the lowest of the low. So, the beggar slipped away to find another table, with hopefully someone more compassionate to his needs.

The man at our table had his hands full. The beggar who ate another’s leftovers had hands that were empty. One seemed to have no needs; the other was keenly aware of them. And Jesus loves them both.

The wealthy man reminded me of the rich young ruler who asked Jesus what he had to do to get eternal life (Mark 10:17). Jesus told him to sell what he had, give the money to the poor, and then follow Him. “At this, the man’s face fell, and he went away sadly because he had many possessions.” (v. 22) As I reflected on this passage and the man across from us who seemed to have everything, God impressed this verse upon my heart: “Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him.” (v. 21)

I think when Jesus said, “How hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God!” (v. 23) and compared that difficulty with a camel trying to fit through the eye of a needle, he meant that the rich naturally have hands that are full. And, our hands must be empty (like that of a beggar’s) before we can receive the gift of eternal life.


We need to be able to hold all of our possessions and treasures on this earth with open hands before God, and to be willing for Him to take them and use them as He sees best. Job responded to incredible loss in his life by worshipping God and declaring, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be stripped of everything when I die. The Lord gave me everything I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!” (Job )

We have to recognize our desperate, sinful state (we are actually the lowest of the low), our thirstiness, and our need for Jesus before He can give us a new life, quench our thirst, and fill us with Himself. He delights to do this because He loves us! He came to save us from the wrath of God, that we deserve as the consequence of our sin, because we are unable to save ourselves.

The rebuke for the church at Laodecia applies to many of us today: “You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked.” (Revelation 3:17)

But God’s promise remains: “To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge! All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” (Revelation 21:6b-7)

Lord, may You receive our open, empty hands and satisfy us with what You know that we need, and with “infinitely more than we would dare to ask or hope” (Ephesians 2:20b). Help us not to be full of things on this earth, but may our treasure be in heaven. You are all that we need.

1 comment:

  1. Jodie, thank you for reading and commenting... it allowed me to "meet" you and read your thoughts here. We must come with open hands. I really love this thought and this reminder. How often do I come with hands full---thinking I am rich--!
    Blessings on you~

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