Snake handling pastor Jamie Coots died as the result of a snake bite this past week. Snake handling had been a lifelong practice by Coots who is a third generation snake handling preacher. The basis for handling snakes by Christians comes from Mark 16:18 in which Jesus is describing the signs that will follow believers and He says “They will pick up snakes with their hands …”.
The clearest response to this practice should seem obvious to everyone and also comes from Jesus’ own words. In Mark 4 when Jesus is tempted by Satan to throw Himself off the pinnacle of the temple so angles would “lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone”, Jesus’ response makes it absolutely clear that we are not to test the Father that way.
Now I for one sure want to obey Jesus, don’t you? But picking up snakes is not all Jesus mentions in verse 18 and surrounding verses. Jesus also mentions “driving out demons”, “speaking in new tongues”, “laying hands on the sick for healing” and “drinking poison and not being hurt”. But instead of putting snake handling or drinking poison at the top of my “evidence list” I suggest we work on helping people with deliverance, healing and our own personal prayer language first. Once we, as the church, are fulfilling those characteristics we can then decide if we want to tempt the Father with those last couple items.
Unfortunately this tragedy is being compounded today as Jamie Coots’ son, Cody, is doubling down on this God tempting practice as he will be handling in church this morning the very same snake that killed his father last week. Can I suggest you might give the snake a break, skip the poison and work on being delivered from foolhardiness?