Have you ever shook hands with someone and it was like grabbing a dead fish? Or how about the guy who crushes your hand wanting you to believe he is Mr. Universe? A handshake can tell you something about a person. I was taught that a firm handshake is a sign of confidence and a weak handshake is an indication of lack of confidence. I tend to believe that some guys just don’t know how to give a firm handshake.
Moving to Arizona I have met a few men, including teenage boys, mostly ranchers, and they have calloused hands and firm handshakes. In South Dakota farm country, where my family is from, the men there also have calloused hands and firm handshakes. Guys who work on their own cars also tend to have a firm handshake. And then there are the guys who sit at a desk pushing paper, or keys on a keyboard, who attend endless meetings, who have paltry handshakes (not all of them, but . . .). Oh and I will not go into the phony firm handshakes of a politician!
Anthropologists speculate that the origin of the handshake comes from a form of greeting between warriors to show their weaponless open / empty hand. I would extend my hand to show that I held no weapon, then you would extend your hand to show that you held no weapon, then we would grasp hands to indicate our desire to not fight. This symbolic clasping of empty hands gradually became a universal greeting of welcome and unity. And in some cultures, the handshake can also symbolize that we are in accord, a firm agreement of identity.
I like the book of James in the New Testament of the Bible. James is considered to be the oldest book (earliest epistle) in the New Testament. James was written by James, the brother of Jesus. James has a lot to say to the early Christians, the people of the way, (most of whom were Jews who acknowledged that Jesus is Messiah, the redeemer and savior of mankind) on a lot of topics. In the Bible, the book is divided into chapters and verses to help us read it. When I read the book, I get the feeling that James and I think and write much the same way: shotgun, cover a lot of topics and hope my reader can follow all the points. Read with me the portion of James found in chapter 2, verses 14 through 26.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless (or dead). Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.
In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
James is talking about shaking hands with God, coming into unity and agreement with Jesus.
The gospel of Mark, in the New Testament of the Bible, tells us that when Jesus began his ministry he proclaimed: “The time has come, . . . The kingdom of God is near (some translations: at hand). Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15.
Think of it this way, the kingdom of God is as close as a handshake away.
To repent and believe the good news is to shake hands with God. To shake hands with God is not just an act of faith, it is an action. When we shake hands we are physically touching, we are doing something—it is action!
James is frustrated with “Christians” who are talking the talk, but not walking the walk. The kingdom of God, Jesus declared, requires us to repent and believe the good news. That is doing something, not just mentally consenting to “believe” and think we are living by faith.
If James were writing today, he may address the “Christians” who say they are looking to enter the ministry, but want to know what the salary is. Far too often well meaning folks declare their desire to work for God, but only if the pay is sufficient. In my opinion, they are more interested in working for the religion of Christianity, than working for the kingdom of God.
Recorded in the old Testament of the Bible in the book of Proverbs are some sayings of Agur son of Jakeh. Read with me Proverbs 30:7-9.
“Two things I ask of you, O Lord; do not refuse me before I die:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God.”
Now read with me a scene recorded in the new Testament in the book of Luke chapter 11:1-4.
One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He (Jesus) said to them, “When you pray, say: “ ‘Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us.
And lead us not into temptation.’”
The thing I want you to note is the message of asking for our daily bread. We are not to ask for the $50,000 a year salary. We are not to ask for the regular paycheck. We are to ask for only what we need each day. And the amazing thing is, God will take care of us. He takes care of the birds. He will take care of you. He took care of the whining Israelites in the wilderness for 40 years, one day at a time.
One of the issues facing a ministry seeking workers is the mindset that the ministry supply a paycheck comparable to a corporate job. People don’t believe that God will take care of their daily needs, unless it is backed by a human resources department agreement for regular paychecks. But is that really trusting God? Is that humbling our self and truly praying the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray? Is that agreeing with the wise council of Agur?
James is almost ranting about the folks who say they trust God, but then want to know what the new religion has to offer if they join. They talk the talk, but do they really want to walk the walk. Too often we get tied-up talking about works. James isn’t talking about works, he is talking about trusting God for our daily bread, he is talking about acting like we believe God will take care of our needs as we have them daily.
Getting back to the handshake—if we truly desire to shake hands with God, we should see that he comes to us with an extended open hand. God is not our enemy. He is interested in a relationship with us. Having a relationship with God means trusting him. Trusting him means . . . trusting him!
Today marks the 1-month anniversary of our arriving at Agape Youth Ranch. In some ways it is easy to accept the open hand of God our Father; we are physically and emotionally exhausted and His open hand is all we have. It is amazing however, each day our basic needs are met. We can pay our bills. We have a place to call home. We have food and water. Continually we are amazed at how God moves the heart of a friend, or stranger, and our daily need is met by a check in the mail or a delivery of food for our pantry and refrigerator.
Bottom line: Are you willing to trust God? Are you willing to extend your hand in peace and shake the hand of the Almighty, the Creator of everything. If the thought of shaking hands with God Almighty terrifies you, then you need to know, Jesus’ nail-scared hands will gently take your hand and guide you to the Father for a wonderful reception. He is wanting to offer you a firm identity in His kingdom.