The Beauty of Holding Our Possessions in an Open Hand

Contributing Writer
The Beauty of Holding Our Possessions in an Open Hand

A financially comfortable Christian might wonder how Jesus regards material wealth. Is it ungodly to own frivolous things and take holidays? Should a Christian give away everything beyond the bare necessities of living in order to truly follow Jesus and live the life of a suffering servant truthfully? Jesus did counsel someone to give away everything he owned (Matthew 19:21), and his comments indicate we should hold our belongings in an open hand.

What Does the Bible Say about Material Possessions?

Jesus exhorted: “do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). Instead, lay up priceless, spiritual treasure. Jesus asked what a man would ultimately possess “if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). What is the eternal, spiritual price of wealth? He cautioned “take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

If you meet someone without adequate clothing and food, what is stopping you from giving that person something to eat and clothing to wear, or the means to obtain such things? Those who love Jesus naturally seek to serve those with nothing. “Sell your possessions” if that is what you need to do, “and give to the needy” (Luke 12:33). A true Christian’s heart will want to help.

But we cannot help everyone. Jesus told his disciples that they would always have the poor (Matthew 26:11), meaning there was no earthly answer to poverty. He also drank wine and dined with sinners. He did not object to having expensive oil poured over him as he was anointed for burial (Matthew 26:6-13). Luxurious things have their place, even within the Kingdom. Revelation 21:19 describes “the foundations of the wall of the city [...] adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald.”

Is It Bad to Have Things?

Possessions are not the problem, but “the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils” (1 Timothy 6:10, emphasis added). This was the rich man’s problem: he loved money too much to follow Jesus.

Some of the people Jesus met were wealthy enough to offer hospitality, such as Zacchaeus the tax collector who was convicted by Jesus’ teachings to become an honorable and generous man. When one possesses material things, it is possible to share them.

Certain Christians at church or in the public eye appear to be financially favored by God. Luke wrote of meeting a “woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God” (Acts 16:14). Lydia and her household were all baptized, after which she urged the disciples to “come to my house and stay” (Acts 16:15). Lydia possessed a house and a household, and tangible means through which she could help the early church leaders. Because of her leadership over a household, she also led them to faith in Christ. Many of her fellow Christians were struggling, but Lydia would have been among the helpers portraying God’s lavish generosity.

Wealthy believers steward their good fortune to his glory and not to their own. Their attitude was that wealth and possessions are less important than people and obedience to God’s will.

Jesus taught that “it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (Luke 18:25). Obtaining things and having money can seem to fulfill a need, but when one employs sinful tactics in order to obtain money, uses money to pursue sinful pleasures, or finds satisfaction in wealth and possessions, this is the sign of a heart at odds with the Lord.

Why Does God Sometimes Allow Our Things to Be Taken or Destroyed?

Vaneetha Rendall Risner wrote that “we are blessed when we have no human resources. When we have nothing of our own to turn to. [...] When nothing seems to be going well. That is when God and his rule increases in our life. There is less of us. And more of God.” Jesus taught that the blessed are those with nothing, people who are grieving, those who have suffered or are suffering right now (Matthew 5). They get more of God when, in their suffering, they turn to Him and cry out for mercy and help. Yet it does appear that catastrophe assails some people more others.

Jesus’ parable of the talents speaks to the spiritual investment of the master. Emerging resilient, with one’s faith intact, is a testimony the Lord uses to reach people. When someone seems to suffer more than his peers, and yet tells a story of victory in Christ, the juxtaposition is startling and potent; a testimony to the power of faith in a loving, living God. This is an investment from the Master – terrible and beautiful simultaneously.

This might seem like cold comfort, and even a bit daunting to those who have endured a natural disaster and the loss of all their possessions after a hurricane, flood, or fire. All those who love the Master want to serve them, but in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25), the Master declared “well done, good and faithful servant” to each of those who had increased his investment, whether he was given two talents or ten. This means that the measure of suffering does not raise a person’s status. This is less important than what a believer does in response to the pain of material losses and disappointments: being laid-off, unexpected plumbing bills, losing everything in a house fire, etc.

How Can We Cling to Christ for Security after a Disaster?

How do people find security when the temporal signs of it – things like a roof over their heads, warm clothes and food – are taken away? It is comforting to remember that Jesus knows what this feels like. He enjoyed the solace of a home, but gave that up during his ministry. For anyone lamenting the absence of a home, possessions, or money, Jesus experienced the same earthly insecurity as he moved closer and closer towards his death and resurrection.

The faithful mentioned in Scripture have been where we are too; we keep excellent company. Exile is a prominent Biblical theme, therefore, one can imagine the likes of Noah, Moses, Ruth, and Naomi deciding which of their few possessions were necessary and having to give up virtually everything else. Many of the Bible’s main characters moved or were displaced, facing uncertainty and hardship.

The presence of Christ by his Holy Spirit provides hope for a greater kingdom, a better inheritance in eternity that cannot be broken, lost, or stolen. The hard part is often knowing what it means to “cling” to something we cannot feel or see.

How Should Christians Respond to the Loss of Material Possessions?

Firstly, when we face unemployment or a storm destroys our house and belongings, we must not be stoic. God designed us to have feelings which can be overwhelming, but when we walk through them in the direction of light and hope by faith, we experience how big he is by contrast. God is always bigger. When we suffer honestly, this is when our Living God reaches in to comfort and support the believer who calls to him.

Secondly, prepare to share. When we choose hope and faith in Christ, we testify to a watching world that this hope is real and powerful. It is this relationship the world needs to see, not some Candyland fantasy where everything is rainbows and unicorns. Realistic suffering viewed from a Kingdom perspective can stand up to reasonable scrutiny.

Thirdly, we can give thanks. Randy Alcorn states that we need to remember: “From beginning to end, Scripture repeatedly emphasizes God’s ownership of everything [...]. When I grasp that I’m a steward, not an owner, it totally changes my perspective.” We remember that the things we think are ours actually belong to God. He gave them. He can take them away. We are not entitled to anything, not homes, jewelry, cars, books, ornaments, furniture, or money. As hard as this is, we must be able to give thanks in all circumstances for whatever we hold on loan from the Lord (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

For the Suffering

There are two immediate responses the church can provide to someone going through the trials of material deprivation: pray and provide. An example of how to pray might be something like this:


All we have is yours, and we want to learn how to hold it loosely in our hands, willing to let you take it back if that is your will. Show us how to trust you, Lord, because you are enough. Help us to believe that when we lose or are denied things, when we are struck with financial disaster or disaster takes our belongings from us, you have not left us. Lord, walk with us through these trials, and also show us how to walk with those around us who endure them also. Help us to make much of you and less of our possessions. Thank you that you are everything, and you are here.


Along with prayer, we can offer financial help, a place to sleep, meals, clothes – whatever it is that an individual might need in the wake of material calamity. Although we cannot make the pain go away or replace those treasures which are sentimental and unique, we can offer support, both to those within and outside of the church. Our neighbor does not have to be a believer, just someone in need. When we bring help, there is an opportunity to also bring Christ.

Security Found in Christ

Devastation and loss as a result of financial collapse, an extreme weather event, burst pipes, fire, or theft is the reality for countless individuals every year. This could be any one of us at some point, or a friend. This means there are always opportunities to lean on and trust God for ourselves and for our loved ones, and many opportunities to support people by giving what we can, including tangible necessities. But even better, we can give a glimpse into security and eternity with Christ.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/Sakorn Sukkasemsakorn

Candice Lucey is a freelance writer from British Columbia, Canada, where she lives with her family. Find out more about her here.