By Steve Higginbotham
Just yesterday, I learned of the death of Jamie Coots. Jamie died
after being bitten by a poisonous snake during a "snake handling church
service." Coots could have received medical treatment, but he refused
it based on his religious convictions and died.
Coots became a celebrity of sorts by appearing in the National
Geographic television series, "Snake Salvation." This television show
documented the beliefs and practices of a Pentecostal church in
southeast Kentucky that "handles poisonous snakes."
Members of this religious sect believe that Mark 16:17-18 commands
them to engage in this practice. However, a more careful study of the
Bible will reveal that Jesus wasn't commanding Christians to be involved
in a "side show" involving snakes. He was stating that his followers
would be given miraculous abilities that would assist them in confirming
the message they preached. An example of what Jesus was talking about
is found in Acts 28:1-6 when the apostle Paul was bitten by a poisonous
viper on the Island of Malta. Instead of dying as the natives surely
thought he would, Paul simply shook the snake from his hand, and he was
alright. Furthermore, these miraculous gifts were temporary (1
Corinthians 13:8-10; Ephesians 4:8-13) and were never intended to last
for all time.
Sadly, Mr. Coots' misguided faith and interpretation of the Bible
cost him his life. While, most of us reading this will not make the
same mistake that Mr. Coots did, we may make other mistakes that could
be just as harmful to our spiritual health? If we don't give great care
and attention to reading and studying the word of God, we too can be
You see, in spite of what you've heard some people say, it does matter what you believe.
- Steve Higginbotham preaches for the Karns Church of Christ in
Knoxville, TN. He may be contacted through the congregation's website at