What exactly does barren-handed mean

“And suffer not the barren-handed to take part in your transactions, who would sell their words for your labour.”

-Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet


Khalil Gibran is a celebrated writer from the middle east and one of his most well known works was The Prophet.  I’m a fairly avid reader and I encountered this particular novel early on in my life and it’s always stayed with me as an interesting text.  This particular passage is the beginning of a 3 or 4 line admonition in the book on how to conduct business with those who come bearing nothing but words.  In this particular case the Prophet uses the term barren-handed, rather than empty handed.  The implication being that their words are devoid of worth, and that their work ethic is, like undeveloped or un-worked land, barren.  Ostensibly its a reminder that everyone should be paid for their work, that platitudes aren’t enough.  Commerce and the exchange of expertise and labor for currency is at the heart of our economic model and I find that we sometimes need a reminder that we are often worth more than we sell ourselves for.

If it all seems rather preachy that because it really is, but it’s certainly a lesson worth pondering.