The Right Kind Of Hands Psalm 24:4

Clean hands. - Psalm 24:4

Did you ever stop to think what very powerful things hands are? It is with our brains that we think, and it is with our tongues that we speak, but it is with our hands that we act. They can be used for doing good, or for getting into mischief; for giving, or for stealing: for creating beautiful things, or for destroying; for healing, or for hurting. So it is very important that we should have the right kind of hands.

Now if you look through the Bible I think you will find that the right kind of hands are “clean hands.” But what does the Bible mean when it speaks about “clean hands”? Well, perhaps you will understand better if I tell you a story which I read the other day.

There was once a Russian princess who lived in a wonderful palace of ice. Her parents were very wealthy and she had lots of fine toys; but she loved best of all to play in the beautiful garden which lay around the palace. She was quite contented and happy until one day she peeped through a hole in the high hedge which surrounded the garden. Beyond the hedge she saw some flowers which looked far more gorgeous than those in her own garden. She was just going to squeeze herself through the hedge when her nurse pulled her back and told her that although the flowers looked so fine, they were really poisonous and if she plucked them they would stain her hands for ever.

Well, the princess was like a great many people who are older and wiser. Just because the flowers were forbidden they seemed all the more desirable. And the more she thought about them the more she wanted them. So at last she found an opportunity to escape from her nurse. She broke through the hedge and gathered a great bunch of the gorgeous flowers and she carried them back in triumph to show her nurse how foolish she had been to forbid them.

But when she laid down her bouquet and looked at her hands, she saw that they were all stained just as if they had been burned black. Moreover the fumes arising from the flowers had darkened her face and dimmed her eyes. And the worst of it was that she was never quite the same afterwards. Her face never became really white again, and she always sat with her hands hidden in her lap, palms downward, to hide the ugly stains that would not come off.

Now there are two kinds of stains we get on our hands. The first kind comes off and the second kind doesn’t. The first is the kind we get when we go out to play or to dig in the garden. Generally we come in with very grimy hands, but a good scrub with soap and water soon puts them right. The second is the kind that we get when we do anything mean, or unworthy, or dishonest, and that is the kind the Bible means us to avoid when it talks about “clean hands.” No amount of washing or scrubbing on our part will take those stains away. Like the flowers of the Russian princess they soil and spoil our hands for life.

Would you like to know the names of some of the things that make our hands black and ugly?

1. First there is stealing. That puts a very black stain on them. Perhaps most of you think that at any rate you haven’t got that mark on your hands. But are you quite sure about it? You know there are more ways of stealing than one. You can steal just as much by taking little things as big things, by taking lumps of sugar or bits of cake or marbles. And you can steal other things besides money or goods. You can steal time by being idle when you ought to be busy. You can steal another boy’s brains by copying his school work instead of taking the trouble to write your own.

2. And another thing that stains our hands is greed. Now although greed is not quite the same as stealing, it is a very near relative—a first cousin, I should think. When we steal we take what belongs to somebody else by right; when we grab we take something that somebody else has an equal right to with us, and we take it quite regardless of their share of the right. The grabby person takes the biggest cake and the rosiest apple and the best place in a game, and when he grows older he grabs the best position and doesn’t mind how much he pushes to get other people out of it.

And the worst of it is that grabbing is so very near to stealing that sometimes we can hardly tell when we go from one to the other. When we are trying to take all we can get it is so easy to take a little more than we are entitled to have. Well, I’m not going to say anything about how greedy people are disliked, but I want you to remember that greed not only stains our hands but also twists and deforms them, and nothing we can do will put them straight again.

3. Another thing that stains our hands is cruelty. And I think that puts the blackest mark of all on them. It is the mark which shows that we are no better than the beasts, that in fact we are a great deal worse, because the beasts have not brains to invent forms of torture, or consciences to tell them they are doing wrong. Now I think you will notice something if you read the lives of really great men— they were nearly always kind to dumb animals and little weak things. God has made some things helpless and dependent on us. We could all use our superior strength to torment them. That is easy. What is not so easy is to care for and protect them and keep ourselves from hurting and oppressing them when we feel tempted to. That shows real strength.

We have thought of three particular ways in which we blacken our hands—by stealing, by grabbing, by cruelty. But indeed every kind of wrong-doing soils our hands, so we can’t help getting them more or less stained as we go through life.

Now if you read the psalm from which our text is taken you will see that nobody is fit to enter God's presence with soiled hands. And we have seen that no amount of scrubbing on our part can take away the stains. Then what are we to do? Shall we never get rid of those stains and shall we never be fit to stand in God’s holy place? Yes, there is one way. We can take them to Jesus and we can ask Him to wash them and to keep them clean. He alone is able to do it, and He will do it if we ask Him.

(The texts of the sermons in this series are Exo_23:9; 1Sa_3:10; Psa_24:4 (2), Psa_34:13; Pro_6:13; Mal_1:13; Luk_6:41; 1Pe_3:4; 1Pe_5:5.)

- James Hastings, Children's Great Texts Of The Bible