How strong is your grip? How firm is your hand-shake? If you were to ever meet Rich Williams, who goes by the nickname “Big Rich,” you might want to settle for a friendly wave instead of offering your digits. Williams is renowned for his immeasurable hand strength and teddy-bear composure. This gentle giant stands at 6’3” and weighs 415 lbs. He has 23” biceps, 33” thighs, a 23” neck, and a 66” chest. He spends his days on staff at an elementary school in Columbia, South Carolina, where he regularly performs feats of strength for the eager kids who chant his name. From tearing phone books in half, to squeezing full soda cans until they explode, and rolling up frying pans like a burrito, Williams’ grip is legendary.
In a not-so-similar way, but related to grip strength, I can very vividly remember the first time that I had my handshake “corrected” for improper grip. I was 12 years old and was exiting the church service at my home church. I was eager to scoot through the line waiting to shake the speaker’s hand to join my friends in the fellowship hall. The speaker this Sunday was one of the elders in our congregation and a great family friend. As I hurriedly made my way past him, I half-heartedly stuck out my hand. What I thought would be a brief exchange turned into something much more meaningful. I felt his grip tighten and almost pull me back so that I was face-to-face with him. In a gentle, teaching way, he offered to me this suggestion. “When you shake someone’s hand, let them know that you mean it.” We then proceeded to re-do our handshake exchange with me applying the proper and respectful force, grip, and eye contact. To this day, whenever I shake someone’s hand I remember this lesson and am thankful for the time taken by this individual to show me something that far outweighed hand strength or grip.
We can easily look at these two accounts above and either marvel at the strength of a grip like Rich Williams or laugh at the ignorance shown by an adolescent lad, but what does something like a tight grip have to do with giving? The same question could be asked about how we view the resources that God has given each of us: our time, our energy, our talents, our money. How tight is your grip to those things? Whose are they? Who are they for? One of the ways that you and I can struggle in this area is in viewing these gifts that God has given us as being meant only for us – our enjoyment, our pleasure. We can be tempted to hoard these gifts, to not use them, to keep them under wraps or for ourselves, but God desires that we see the bigger picture in those things that He gives to us. Scripture’s tone and call on this aspect of giving is simply this: God has given so that we can give. There is a blessing designed and intended for the giver. We obviously see the blessing in receiving, but many of us have also felt that when we give too.
So, how tight is your grip on the gifts and resources that God has given you and made you steward and manager of? Who in your life and world could benefit from you sharing those? It is when we loosen our grip and let go that we see God’s provision in our own life and the true life that He intends us to experience. In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to young pastor Timothy, he writes these words:
May each of us continue to learn and be shaped by God’s grace to us as we give what He first gave to us.
Pastor Ben Bigaouette