HAT ARE YOU DOING with your hands?
Our hands are among the most used parts of our bodies. We probably don’t realize how dependent on them we are since most daily tasks are engaged without much thought. But their significance is revealed in that they symbolize strength, power, and authority. We can even communicate with our hands, further showing they are instruments of purpose and productivity.
Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “Idle hands are the devil’s playthings,” indicating the enemy of our souls knows the potential of our hands. The Bible has much to say concerning the use of our hands, and Scripturally assessing our behavior is of great benefit to our lives and service to God.
With our hands we work: “Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands, the thing which is good” (Ephesians 4:28). In addressing a tendency towards dishonesty and theft that may have appeared among the Ephesians, Paul affirmed God expects each of us to be industrious. In Genesis 3:19, God’s judgment for sin mandated, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread” (ESV).
Consequently, many people use their hands to earn a living and provide for their families. Carpenters, masons, surgeons, and musicians are among the professions that necessitate working with the hands. Michael Jordan’s ability to dribble and shoot a basketball enabled him to amass a net worth of almost $2 billion. Few if any of us will become as wealthy as Michael in the exercise of our talents, but we should all strive to honor God’s expectations in working with our hands. How are you using yours?
With our hands we reveal our will: “And Jesus said to him, No man, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). The determination of the mind and commitment of the heart is often seen in the activities of the hand. What we do can either validate or disprove what we say. Better yet, when the hand and eye are coordinated in function, we demonstrate certainty and purpose.
I lived on two farms during my childhood, and remember marveling at the straight rows of corn, cabbage, and tobacco in the fields. I learned that during plowing, the person driving the tractor has to keep focused ahead lest he turn the wheel and create a crooked furrow. It’s an applicable principle for life and our spiritual walk. It’s difficult to hit our target or arrive at our destination if we’re looking behind us. Let’s determine to stay focused while reaching forward for Christ.
With our hands we worship God: “I will therefore that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting” (1 Timothy 2:8). Worship activities often engage our hands. We clap while singing, press our palms together when praying, and often elevate our hands in expressions of surrender or celebration during times of praise. How fitting it is to utilize the significant tools of our hands in acknowledgment of our Creator!
We’ve perhaps been inspired in church by dance and pantomime ministries that use bodily movements and gestures with musical accompaniment. They dramatize messages of joy, faith, and conviction. Thank God for churches that allow the freedom to sing, shout, and dance in worship. God recognizes our hand signals as well, though. A line from a Church of God in Christ hymn states, “If I couldn’t say a word, I’d just wave my hand.”
With our hands we water others: “She extends her hand to the poor, yes she reaches out her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20 NKJV). When watering plants and flowers, we hold pots or hoses in our hands to distribute as much as they need. Without water, they would die due to an inability to draw nutrition from the soil in which they are planted. In the same manner, when giving to others’ needs, we water (nourish and refresh) them. We demonstrate compassion and brotherhood that may cause them to give thanks to God.
Numerous scriptures encourage our willingness to give and share our resources. Proverbs 11:25 states, “He who waters will also be watered himself” (NKJV). Our generosity in providing for others will enable us to find provision in our times of need. An anonymous quote states, “You have two hands. One to help yourself; the second to help others.”
Opportunities to give are all around us. Natural disasters, geopolitical conflicts, and other crises are constantly displacing people in our world. Have you positioned yourself to help your fellowman and to honor God by extending your hands to the needy?
With our hands we witness: “And through the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were done among the people” (Acts 5:12 NKJV). The message of the early church was validated through the witness of miracles taking place through the apostles. They had seen Jesus heal lepers, give sight to the blind, and heal the deaf and mute through the touch of His hand. They had been promised the reality of signs following the proclamation of the Gospel (Mark 16:17-18). As they operated in faith and obedience, the promised signs took place.
When we touch people in fulfillment of the Great Commission today, we give witness to the truth and power of the Gospel. Whether through the actual laying on of hands or by symbolically touching people at their point of need, we expect and often see the miraculous take place for the glory of God. When utilized in ministry, our hands are anointed instruments of purpose and power.
With our hands we welcome: “And he greeted him and said to him, ‘Is your heart right, as my heart is toward your heart?’ And Jehonadab answered, ‘It is.’ Jehu said, ‘If it is, give me your hand.’ So he gave him his hand, and he took him up to him into the chariot” (2 Kings 10:15 NKJV). As Jehu extended his hand to Jehonadab in a sign of friendship and fidelity, so too the handshake greeting is a sign of welcome and hospitality.
A University of Oxford survey verified most people feel more comfortable with a handshake when meeting strangers for the first time. Compared to a hug or kiss on the cheek, shaking hands is perhaps the most common form of greeting, especially in churches. It communicates love, acceptance, brotherhood, and unity. As we emerge from the restrictions of the recent pandemic, which forbade getting too close to others out of fear of contracting the Covid-19 virus, most of us are again welcoming each other with hugs, high-fives, and handshakes. Our doors, our hearts, and our hands are open.
So, how are you doing with regard to your hands? Most of their daily functions will undoubtedly occur without conscious thought on our part, but we are encouraged to use them in a manner that glorifies God. Benjamin Franklin’s observation about idle hands need not be our reality. Jesus’ symbolic warning in Mark 9:43 concerning offensive hands should motivate us to examine our behavior.
As believers, our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Submission to His leading will ensure our progress and productivity. Let’s determine to purposefully work, will, worship, water, witness, and welcome with our hands.
Patrick Kelly is lead pastor of Cathedral
Church of God in Deerfield Beach, Florida.