The Pursuit of God

Serious Topics for Serious Christians

The Laying On of Hands

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Does God need someone to touch you before He can help you? Of course not, He’s God. So what’s this business about laying on of hands? Well, this is one of those things like fasting that we pick up from things we read about in the Bible. We pick it up and then we won’t let it go, because we think we’ve found a way to manipulate God.

The popular reason to fast is to try and pressure God into giving you what you want. You’re trying to earn His favor through self-inflicted suffering. You go hungry, God is impressed by your miserable state, and He gives you what you want. It’s carnal, it’s manipulative, and it’s a shabby way to treat God, but it’s what we do. Why? Because we see the Jews doing it all over the place in the Bible and we figure if it worked for them, it might work for us. Of course it didn’t work for them, because God doesn’t take orders from the things He creates. But we’re so desperate to find some way to control God that we ignore the irreverence of the Jews, we ignore the passages in which God expresses His disgust with all our phony rituals, and we pretend that fasting works. Then we tell Christians that if they really want to get those demons to leave or get God to speak or get more holy themselves, they have to fast. Why? Because apparently God Almighty is deeply affected by how much food you have in your stomach. The theology behind fasting is utterly ludicrous, but no one ever questions it because in the Church we’re taught not to think.

When we get into the laying on of hands, we’re dealing with an equally ridiculous concept. You’re a human dot, you’re not some powerful sorcerer. So why on earth do you think there is some mighty transfer of power happening when you press your epidermal layer against someone else’s? To really believe your touch is amazingly potent, you’ve must have a very lofty opinion of yourself or a very low opinion of God. Either mindset is going to get you into trouble.

God has power. We humans have nothing. Our egos like to believe that God pours His power into certain human vessels like a man pours water into a cup. Those chosen vessels can then go around dispensing God’s power on whomever they please. This is how we view famous healers, famous exorcists, and any other clown who has managed to dupe us all into believing that God takes orders from them. It’s not hard to make this impression on people—especially today when anyone can make a movie of themselves putting on a staged show of miraculous powers, post that movie on YouTube, and let the greed of humanity carry them to stardom. We humans are very egotistical beings and we have enormous trouble accepting this arrangement of God being the only One who is awesome. We want to be awesome, too. We want to be able to do all of the impressive things that He can do. Since we aren’t born with the necessary power, we put enormous energy into trying to get a greedy grip on God’s power.

As soon as God does one miraculous thing through us using any kind of prop, we try to turn that prop into a way of controlling God. In the Bible, we find accounts of even God’s best men falling into this trap. The prophet Elisha got used to God doing miraculous things through him on a fairly regular basis. We aren’t told what all of those miracles were, but undoubtedly God used Elisha’s walking staff as a prop somewhere along the way, for in 2 Kings 4, we find Elisha trying to use his staff as a means of controlling God’s power. When the only son of Elisha’s dear friend suddenly keeled over dead, the prophet was desperate to help. He was used to Yahweh moving swiftly to get his friends out of crises, but this time Yahweh was moving slow. The boy was dead, his mother was devastated, and Elisha was an old man who was rather far from her house at the time when she came to him with her shocking news. Desperate to get the boy back on his feet, and not willing to accept the fact that Yahweh was going to leave the kid dead, Elisha pulls a very cheap stunt. He hands his walking staff to his servant Gehazi, and sends the man sprinting off to the woman’s home. The idea was for Gehazi to lay the prophet’s staff on the boy’s corpse because…because what?? A stick has Divine power? Well, yes, that was the hope. Elisha figured that since Yahweh had done miracles with the prophet’s personal effects before, He’d do it again. Place the walking staff of the great prophet Elisha on a corpse, and God’s power must flow, right? WRONG. God doesn’t take orders from us, and He didn’t like Elisha’s attempt to control Him with some dumb piece of wood. Gehazi lays the staff on the boy and nothing happens. It isn’t until Elisha makes it to the house himself and physically lays on top of the boy that warmth starts to return to the cold corpse. But even then the boy doesn’t wake up. Elisha gets up and starts pacing. This isn’t the way he’s used to operating. He’s used to instant cures from God. Well, God is wild, and He isn’t going to come running the minute we snap our fingers. Elisha has to work at God’s pace and sprawl out on the boy a second time before God brings the boy back to a fully conscious state.

Moses is another fellow who get a bit too enamored with his walking staff. His staff had been used as a dramatic prop by Yahweh in some of the ten plagues on Egypt, and in the parting of the Red Sea. In Exodus 17, Yahweh tells Moses to use his famous staff to strike a rock. When Moses does, Yahweh causes water to miraculously flow out of the rock to hydrate a mob of thirsty gripers. By now Moses is starting to see his staff as playing a key role in Yahweh’s miracle working machinery. But here is where Moses is wrong, because there is no machinery. Yahweh does what Yahweh wants to do and He doesn’t need physical props. When a second thirst crisis arises in Numbers 20, Yahweh tells Moses to SPEAK to the rock that Yahweh is going to make water flow out of. But what about the staff? Surely Yahweh needs the staff to make things happen, right? Moses gives the rock two dramatic whacks with his staff.

Now hold on a second. Since when does Yahweh need some dumb stick to work His miracles? Where does the human dot get off trying to make Yahweh look like some kind of trained dog who barks on command? Yahweh is very angry with Moses.

But Yahweh said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in Me enough to honor Me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” (Num. 20:12)

Notice the reference to trust. Just because Yahweh LIKES props doesn’t mean He NEEDS props. Moses and Aaron insulted God in front of the Israelites by trying to assist God. This was a major offense to Yahweh which He didn’t get over.

Jumping ahead to the New Testament, we find constant references to people laying hands on other people. Jesus often lays His hands on the people that He cures. But on plenty of other occasions He doesn’t. He didn’t lay His hands on Lazarus’ corpse—He just stood outside of the grave and verbally ordered the man to get up. Jesus is GOD ALMIGHTY, He doesn’t need to make physical contact with people in order to heal them. In the Gospels we find Jesus healing close up and healing long distance. On several occasions, He announces the healing of some physically sick or demon possessed person who is located miles away from Him. God does whatever God wants to do whenever He wants to do it.

In Acts we read about the founding of the Church: the body of believers who have aligned with the requirements of Yahweh’s New Covenant. In Acts, the focus centers around a few Jewish men who are leading the charge in spreading the Good News about Christ—men like Paul and Peter. God performs a ton of miracles through these men. Sometimes He uses props, sometimes He doesn’t. On one occasion, He heals anyone who Peter’s shadow falls on as Peter walks through a crowd of miracle seekers.

As a result of the apostles’ work, sick people were brought out into the streets on beds and mats so that Peter’s shadow might fall across some of them as he went by. Crowds came from the villages around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those possessed by evil spirits, and they were all healed. (Acts 5:15-16)

During another period, God used pieces of material that Paul had touched to center His miracles around.

God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles. When handkerchiefs or aprons that had merely touched his skin were placed on sick people, they were healed of their diseases, and evil spirits were expelled. (Acts 19:11-12)

Notice the irreverent language here. Luke is the one who wrote Acts (as well as the Gospel of Luke). Notice how Luke says “God gave Paul the power to perform unusual miracles.” God did no such thing. Human beings have NO POWER. We just have ginormous egos, and as soon as God does a series of miracles through us, we start acting like we’ve shoved Him out of the driver’s seat and taken over the controls. It’s Moses thinking his staff is going to assist Yahweh in doing His God thing. It’s Elisha thinking he can use his staff to boss God around. God doesn’t “give” His power to anyone EVER. It doesn’t matter how many hankies some famous healer touches today, those bits of cloth don’t have power, and neither does the human being. God is not some force of energy that we can confine and control with physical objects or physical beings. When we treat Him with dishonor, we will reap the consequences. God WILL NOT be mocked without avenging Himself, and there is a whole lot of mockery of God’s power going on in the Church today.

So if God hates props getting the glory, why does He use them? To grab our attention and stir us up to marvel and wonder. It should be no-duh obvious to you that there is no power in a washrag. So if you touch a washrag that the apostle Paul touched and you suddenly get healed, you should be asking, “What’s going on here? Where did this power come from?” A fool will tell you, “The apostle Paul has supernatural power.”   But a wise person will tell you, “The God that this man is preaching about healed you.” God always exalts Himself when He does miracles. God never encourages the exaltation of props. We humans are the ones who stop too soon in our efforts to trace the flow of power back to its original source. We stop at the holy oil. We stop at the walking stick. We stop at the owner of the hands that touched us. We say the HUMAN has power instead of revering God Himself. This is when God gets ticked at us.

The laying on of hands is just another meaningless prop that God sometimes enjoys using when performing miracles. There is NO POWER in a human being physically touching you. Only GOD has power. For every time that a miracle occurred with the laying on of hands, we can find plenty of other occasions when a miracle occurred without any hands at all. Just because God LIKES props doesn’t mean He NEEDS props. But because people are foolish, they start obsessing over any props that God uses more than once, and then they completely lose sight of God. This is when we start inventing multi-step rituals in which we use several kinds of props which God seems to have a habit of using. The idea is that if we pull all of the famous wands out of God’s closet and wave each one about, one of them will be sure to have some power left in it and we’ll get our miracle. Bring on the fasting, the flinging of holy water, the dabbing on of holy oil, the holding up of crosses, the waving of Bibles, the quotation of certain Scriptures, and the laying on of hands.  It’s a revolting attempt to manipulate and control God, but we do it ALL THE TIME. There are certain rituals which Christians commonly associate with physical healing, thus these things have become enormously popular in the Church. Listen to how irreverently the apostle James speaks in his letter:

Are any of you sick? You should call for the elders of the church to come and pray over you, anointing you with oil in the Name of the Lord. Such a prayer offered in faith will heal the sick, and the Lord will make you well. (Jam. 5:14-15)

What is James teaching you here? He’s saying that your prayers aren’t nearly as potent as the prayers of men who have given themselves some holy title. If you ask God for healing yourself, you’re sure to be ignored. But if the great “elders” come cast their verbal spells over you, then God will take the cotton out of His ears and hop to it. After all how could God Almighty possibly resist the demands of such potent sorcerers? Especially when they start smearing their magical oil on people? James is talking like an IDIOT here, and it’s thanks to passages like this that we’ve got a bunch of Christians feeling like they are being ignored by God while fatheaded leaders go around declaring that they are “anointed”, therefore everyone has to suck up to them if they want to earn God’s favor.

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. Elijah was as human as we are, and yet when he prayed earnestly that no rain would fall, none fell for three and a half years! Then, when he prayed again, the sky sent down rain and the earth began to yield its crops. (Jam. 5:16-18)

According to James, who was turning the weather on and off in ancient Israel? A human being, not God. It was the prophet Elijah who had the power, and when he started cracking the whip over Yahweh with his emotional prayers, Yahweh was coerced into doing whatever the human fleck demanded. This is how James paints it, and then he tells you that YOU can boss God around just like Elijah did because your righteousness is oh so impressive. What righteousness?? You’re a depraved sinner! You don’t have one ounce of righteousness in your whole sorry self. Jesus went to great lengths in the Gospels to teach us all just how depraved we are in God’s sight and how we are all sinning CONSTANTLY. But this isn’t what the New Testament boys will teach you. They’ll teach you that you become morally perfect once you get saved, and that you can easily reverse your occasional failings through some quick confessions. According to James, it’s a simple matter:

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)

And why on earth would you confess your sins to other PEOPLE? It is GOD who judges you. It is GOD who dispenses mercy, grace, and forgiveness. It is GOD who heals. But notice how James elevates YOU and your fellow HUMANS as the centers of power. Somehow confessing your sins to other HUMANS fixes the sin problem. He tells you to look to other HUMANS for help in obtaining healing instead of looking to GOD. According to James’ theology, God is just our able Servant who sits around waiting for our next command. We tell Him when to turn the rain on and off. We tell Him who to heal and who to forgive. He can’t refuse us because we’re so incredibly righteous. James is an IDIOT on the subject of God’s power, and the folks who voted to included his irreverent rot into a volume of “sacred Scriptures” were clearly NOT listening to the Holy Spirit.

So then, given the fact that our Creators are ragingly jealous Beings who start fuming whenever Their own creatures try to crowd into Their spotlight, why would you ask a human to lay hands on you? What do you think that’s going to accomplish? The Church teaches you to view some human beings as capable of pumping power out of God. God teaches you that He is an autonomous Being who never takes orders from us. Yes, God most certainly does want you to talk to Him about everything. You’re never going to get in trouble with God for saying how much you wish He’d heal you or expressing your frustration that He won’t. God wants total honesty from you and He knows that His best plan for your life can feel pretty rotten at times. You’re only going to get in trouble with God when you start trying to go around Him by trying to get humans to make God give you something that He is withholding.

Remember that God looks on the heart. With so much bad teaching in the Church, scores of earnest Christians are standing in line to get some big shot in the Church to touch them because they’ve been taught that that’s what they’re supposed to do. God knows when you’re trying to manipulate Him, and when you’re just acting out of ignorance. God never accuses souls of defying Him when He sees they are earnestly trying to please Him. On the contrary, we see God dispensing all kinds of very real miracles through the hands of rebellious twerps in order to bless Christians who are sincerely seeking Him. Here’s an important point: the fact that God channels His power through someone doesn’t mean He is pleased with that person. God is constantly using wolves to further His plan down here, yet in the end, those who intentionally set out to deceive God’s flock and take His glory for themselves will pay the consequences for their defiance.

So is it EVER a good thing to lay hands on someone? Yes. God likes props. He will often tell us to jump through some hoop before He dispenses His miraculous power. The story of Naaman and Elisha is a perfect example of this. Naaman was a non-Jew with a skin disease. He came to Elisha seeking help because he’d heard about Elisha’s reputation of performing healing miracles. God told Elisha that He would heal Naaman, but only after Naaman went and dipped seven times in the muddy Jordan River. Why does God do this when He doesn’t need props? It’s a submission exercise. God is telling Naaman, “If you want My help, you have to do things My way.” At first Naaman’s pride chafes and he refuses to do what God wants. Then he gets over himself, does his seven dips, and receives his miracle.

We won’t see the day that God stops demanding reverential submission and obedience from us. We were created to serve, not to be served. Today God is still handing out a lot of strange instructions to individuals who are asking Him for miraculous help. If God told you that He’ll heal you of your cancer if you hop up and down on your right leg twenty times first, would you do it? You’d be a fool not to. But while you’re hopping, you should be reflecting on the fact that God gets to call the shots because He is the King. You shouldn’t be thinking that God needs your help to heal you. In the same way, if God tells you that He’ll heal you if Brother Bob lays hands on you and prays for you, then you need to give Brother Bob a call and do what God is telling you to do. But both you and Bob need to be giving the glory to God alone and not think that either one of you is controlling God’s activities.

It’s a big deal when God chooses you to be a channel of His power in some particular moment. It’s a humbling privilege and a great responsibility. You need to be doing what God tells you to do because He is the One telling you to do it. If He tells you that He’s going to heal the people that you lay your hands on, your response needs to be, “Whatever You want, God. Who’s first?” You don’t just go running off to heal all your friends and trying to use God’s power to further your own carnal agenda. When God puts us in the middle of His power flow, we need to be very careful to do EXACTLY what He wants and be looking to Him in every moment. We need to remember that God will never GIVE His power to us. He will only invite us to be a part of the background scenery in a show in which He will be exalting HIMSELF. It is a great privilege to receive such an invitation from God.

So then, today God still uses the laying on of hands ritual as a prop in His Self-exalting shows. But the vast majority of hand laying that you see has nothing to do with God. It is just humans trying to control God using a ritual that they read about in the Bible. You need to keep your hands to yourself unless God tells you otherwise. If you’re a touchy-feely person and it’s natural for you to get physical with the people you’re praying with, fine. But if you’re trying to make physical contact because you secretly believe that such an action can influence what God does, then you’re being an irreverent twerp and you need to knock it off. You should not be trying to control God. You should not be trying to manipulate the flow of His power or acting like you’re some little sorcerer with magical hands. You are a powerless fleck and you’ll never see the day that God takes orders from you. Pleasing God means treating Him with honor and respect. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you treat your Creators the way They want to be treated and He will.

FURTHER READING:
What’s holy about holy water? (Understanding Labels in the Church)
All About Fasting
Anointed: What it Does & Doesn’t Mean
Can Christian leaders claim special protection from God?
Confessing the Sins of Others
Why God Isn’t Healing You (Encouragement for Frustrated Christians)

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