‘Snake Handling’ is used in a few country Churches in order to prove, or as a sign of, their faith. The idea comes from an interpretation of Mark 16:18, where Jesus is giving His disciples a few parting words and instructions before He ascended into heaven, in which he mentions ‘taking up serpents’.
Mar 16:18 KJV They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them;
People have taken Jesus’ words to mean that we should take up serpents and drink deadly things. They believe that we should do these things in order to prove that we have faith. This, however, is a misinterpretation of Jesus’ words.
Jesus did not tell us to handle snakes. This situation would be similar to when Satan told Jesus to cast himself down to prove he was the son of God. Jesus told Satan not to tempt God.
Mat 4:6-7 KJV 6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. 7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
In a similar manner, people have understood Jesus’ words to mean “if you have faith, then take up serpents”. Jesus wasn’t telling us to prove our faith by handling snakes. He was referring to His miracle-power in having the ability to heal in times of need. These times of need would be an accidental snake bite or accidently drinking something harmful- not purposely tempting God by purposely handling deadly snakes and drinking poison. It is no different than playing Russian Roulette.
The only place in Scripture where this promise was fulfilled was when Paul was throwing sticks into the fire.
Act 28:3-6 KJV 3 And when Paul had gathered a bundle of sticks, and laid them on the fire, there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand. 4 And when the barbarians saw the venomous beast hang on his hand, they said among themselves, No doubt this man is a murderer, whom, though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance suffereth not to live. 5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm. 6 Howbeit they looked when he should have swollen, or fallen down dead suddenly: but after they had looked a great while, and saw no harm come to him, they changed their minds, and said that he was a god.
Paul did not purposely handle snakes. He did not pick up the snake and dance around with it, tempting God, while proving that he had faith for his healing or faith that he wouldn’t get bit. Paul was bit accidently. He did not know that snake was there. He simply shook the snake off of his hand and went about his business. He knew God would heal him because he had faith.
Jesus took those stripes so that we could have our healing.
Isa 53:5 KJV But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.
Mat 8:16-17 KJV 16 When the even was come, they brought unto him many that were possessed with devils: and he cast out the spirits with his word, and healed all that were sick: 17 That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
Jesus wants us to be healed. God can heal anything, but that doesn’t mean we should tempt Him. Handling serpents and drinking deadly things are not part of God’s will. Having faith in God for deliverance is. We do not build faith through tempting God. Many lives have been destroyed by tempting God through snake handling. It serves no purpose in the Church or in the home. It actually harms families and Church attendance. We should not allow our Churches, Christianity, and faith to be ridiculed by doing something that is so obviously against God’s Word and will. And we should never give our children a reason to be afraid to go to Church.