Jamie Coots was a snake-handling preacher in Middlesboro, Kentucky. Coots had appeared on an episode of Snake Salvation, a television series that aired on National Geographic last fall. Snake-handlers are a small group of churches who think that those who believe in Jesus are commanded to pick up snakes. This belief is based on Mark 16:18. However, that sentence is a statement of fact, not a commandment to obey. The Bible does not tell us to pick up snakes on purpose. In Acts 28, Paul, the apostle, accidentally picked up a poisonous snake while collecting firewood. People were sure that he would die when the snake bit him, but were surprised to see that he had no ill effects from the snakebite.
Coots, on the other hand, intentionally picked up snakes on a regular basis. This practice led to his undoing Saturday night when a rattlesnake he was handling bit him on the right hand. He died two hours later.
Some people will continue to believe that God wants us to intentionally pick up poisonous snakes.
“We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes.”—1 Corinthians 10:9.