Dirty Hands

When God wants to make a point, He can use anything He chooses when He has a willing audience. Case in point, the dirty hands of an old rancher who just finished oil changes on all the equipment. Before cleaning up and returning all the tools where they belong, it’s best to get all the grit and grime off you. Having just rolled around on the ground greasing the tractor, it was GoJo™ time. Invented long before I learned to mechanic from my adopted dad, GoJo remains my go to hand cleaner when I get really grimy.

Working the liquified cleaner around grease-covered hands and forearms, my spirit paused to take note of the commonplace. My only thought was, Sometimes, you must do the work and get your hands dirty. As a farmer and rancher, I can’t think of a single day that goes by that I’m not getting dirty. I wasn’t sure why this was a learning moment, but I accept that I don’t have to understand. I just need to pay attention. If God is speaking to you, He’ll provide the understanding.

Like young Samuel, my heart said, Speak Lord, your servant is listening. As I listened, the words of Mark 2:16-17 sprang forth.

‘And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, “How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?”

When Jesus heard it, He said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.”’ (Mark 2:16-17, NKJV)

Dirty hands? Chapters 2 and 7 of Mark came to mind. Hoping I don’t go on a rant here, but that sometimes we need to get our hands dirty is resonating with me this week. I’ve always thought the phrase getting your hands dirty meant getting involved or engaging in something to achieve a goal. As often happens, and maybe this is a writer thing, I filed the thought away to think about later and went on about my day.

Those nagging thoughts. When God wants your focus, He can be relentless. An earworm of sorts, my thoughts kept returning to those Scripture verses. After supper, I “turtled” away to my den and began contemplating what God wanted me to learn this day. My conversation went something like this.

Me: God, I’m forever getting my hands dirty in doing things for You. What am I missing? What am I not doing, Lord, that you want me to do?

God: Not everything is about you son. Lots of my children get their hands dirty, doing the things I’ve called them to do. Yet many more have clean hands and cold hearts.

Me: I’m responsible for my thoughts and actions, Lord. I’m just doing my best not to mess up too bad.

God: Will you never learn? Don’t you realize that each one of my children is supposed to be living examples of me so that others might see me in your lives?

Me: Yes, but we are not supposed to say “Look at me” either.

God: You’re right, that’s My job. I’ll show people what I want them to see in you and others. Your job is to do My will and engage in this world as I send you. You focus on your job, and I’ll take care of everything else.

Me: Yes Lord, You’re right. So help me understand how I’m supposed to interpret Mark 2 and Mark 7.

God: Finally, you’re asking the right question. Let’s get to work.

Not the most eloquent of conversations or dialogue, but you get the point. I’m not sure how everyone else does it, but when I need to gain understanding of God’s Word, I start with prayer. Prayer is that tool that makes a spirit-connection between my physical world and God’s spiritual world. It is that connection that enables us (me and God) to communicate directly with the other.

In reading and praying through Mark 2, I thought about how Jesus Christ spent much more of His time on earth focused on the sick, infirmed, poor, lost, and hurting. Clearly, He spent more time around them than He did with the Scribes, Sadducees, and Pharisees, who were lost in their own way. Recognizing the importance of what Christ replied about who needed the physician, I understood that among the brethren, we, the church, are supposed to take care of ourselves (Proverbs 27:17). It’s when we are all working together toward Christ’s common goal (the Great Commission) that we are most effective.

How willing are you to get your hands dirty by carrying out God’s work in your life, church, and community? #DirtyHandsFullHeart #InGodsService Share on X

Dirty hands in the church doesn’t mean that we must all knock on doors and evangelize the neighborhood, but it means this. We must ALL engage within the church to support those who are called for different ministries of the church. It’s important that we get our hands dirty by doing whatever work God has equipped us for, using the spiritual gifts He provides. Whatever that support and encouragement you can give to help further God’s work in your church is, seek God’s guidance on how you can best accomplish His goal.

Another thought, and it’s something I see too much of in God’s house today, is how divided and fractured some churches have become. There will always be groups of friends who are closer among themselves than others, but we the church, should never be exclusive of others in our “family of faith.” Not pointing any fingers here, because I would have to (like the Apostle Paul) claim myself “chief sinner”, but here’s one example. Can you name everyone within 50-feet of you at church on Sunday morning and state something about them? We don’t always engage with other church members and visitors to show any genuine interest in them or their lives. If someone is missing from church, do we call or at least ask about them?

In my study around Mark 7, my heart centered on the idea that it isn’t how we react to what’s going on around us that matters most. What matters most is how we react to what’s going on within us. What I discovered about myself here is that while I must know what is happening in the world around me, it’s more important I check my heart. It is how I react internally to the external forces around me that show my true heart condition. Do I allow myself to be controlled by the circumstances of the moments in my life, or do I control them? If I stop to consider/weigh what is happening around me against God’s Word, I’ll find I react differently.

Sometimes, we get our hands the dirtiest when we are working on ourselves. We all have areas that God can work on. I hope that by sharing a few of mine, you might be encouraged to seek God’s guidance in your lives this week too. Praying that God can use my brokenness to help someone else.

God’s blessings,

44 thoughts on “Dirty Hands”

  1. I love this piece, J.D. i’m convinced that we have far too many people who want someone else to do their dirty work. As a former “shade tree mechanic” (a guy who doesn’t have a nice, well equipped garage with hydraulic lifts to raise the car or truck) crawling around on the ground was a basic requirement. In the church, it appears that we only want to refer the hurting, the broken, the anxious, the wounded, etc. to someone else who has a degree or two hanging on an office wall. Let them get down in the grit and grime. In the first place, unfortunately, those referrals rarely really happen because we aren’t aware that someone sitting near us cries himself or herself to sleep at night because they are desperate and don’t know what to do. In the second place, those degreed professionals rarely really get into the areas they need to be in anyway. Beyond that, I’ve discovered that there’s a sort of deep-breath, satisfying, sense of accomplishment and peace when we get to rub the GoJo into our hands and arms and see that the job is done and the clean is still under there somewhere. One of the things I thank God for when I read your stuff is that you don’t sit around in some paneled office somewhere sipping on your vegan smoothie analyzing people and problems from a distance. Great job once again, and God bless you, your temporarily dirty hands, and a heart washed clean by the blood of Christ.

    1. Thanks Mr. Ron. Coming from you, I take this as high praise indeed my friend. I think perhaps I’ve touched many “nerves” within the church this week, and perhaps some have needed “touching” for a very long time. Such a true statement, “we prefer to refer”. I wonder if it’s because we don’t want to dirty our hands with the messy, smelly lives that need God most? We often forget that it wasn’t that long ago, we were that smelly, hot mess of a person. Or perhaps, it’s because we’ve been deceived by the great deceiver to believe we aren’t qualified to help those who are hurting. Satan is right on that point, we’re not. The God who lives in us, however, is. Isn’t that the job of every Christian; to be God’s hands and feet in this world? If so, then we should be willing to get them dirty in carrying out His mission for us. You’re right on another point too my friend. Those “GoJo moments” are precious times. We can take a breath, admire that we gave it our best shot to complete the task, and if we’re lucky, we’ve seen a job to completion. I pray I can experience that feeling upon Heaven’s upward call. That satisfied feeling that expresses I’ve done my best and have completed the job God called me to do. God’s blessings brother; and our best to your wise and beautiful Ms. Diane.

  2. Your words here today, J. D., really struck a chord within me. I have felt called lately to reflect deeply on who I am and what I’m doing for God in my daily walk with Him. And just like you did, I’m finding that most of the work I need to do is on myself, and the way I let circumstances influence me. Is it for God’s good or mine? How dirty am I letting my hands become as I do that self-searching?
    Thanks for admitting your own shortcomings, my friend. It makes me more determined than ever to weed out mine, too.

    1. Thank you Ms. Martha. I pray in a good way ma’am. I think we all need a “good washing” now and again by the Holy Spirit my friend. So relieved to know I’m not alone in those feelings.

  3. Dearest J.D.,

    I can’t help wondering if instead of dirty hands I have to think more about my tongue. It’s not blue terrible, but there’s a lot of red, especially when I’m driving. Your suggestion of praying before speaking, as in cleaning my hands before reaching for God, seems one way to get my brain and tongue under His influence so maybe the rest of my words will have a longer effect.

    And I’m barely a shade-awning mechanic, struggling with two separate motorcycles. Thankfully, I understand my ignorance so my tongue only gets wrapped around my eye tooth and I can’t see what I’m saying.

    Best blessings to you and the brand personnel.

    1. Right there with you Mr. Warren. It’s so easy to let the ID-10-Ts of this world work us over, and driving is one of those “touchpoints” for my life too. I find that listening to worship music helps me a lot. Oh, I still get passed on the right, ran off the road, and no one but me uses their blinkers in Texas, but it’s hard to say something blue or red when the Gaither’s are blaring. 🙂

    1. Amen Ms. Tammy. Ministry work, in whatever form that might take (frontlines or merely supporting it) requires energy and effort. I’ve learned that God rewards us when we do it with a merry heart and a true desire to show His love to the world around us.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed this message, J.D. Loved your conversation with the Lord and your analogy to dirty hands doing Kingdom work where God calls each of us to minister. But what stood out to me is your insight that what matters most is paying attention to what’s going on within us. Good word!

  5. God invites us to a life of work–not of comfort. I love the questions you ask us to consider–the state of our hearts, whether our circumstances control us, and sometimes our deepest work is within ourselves. Great post, JD! God bless!

    1. Thank you Ms. Nancy. I’ve never been much of a fan of the 80-20 rule of church membership, where 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of the membership. Instead, a church seems more vibrant, engaged, and alive with the Holy Spirit when everyone is “plugged in” in some way for fashion. We all have spiritual gifts, we just need to be willing to use them.

  6. Thanks for sharing your process of prayer and listening to God while digging into Scripture. Much to be mined here. The insight that grabbed my attention most?

    it isn’t how we react to what’s going on around us that matters most. What matters most is how we react to what’s going on within us.

    A great reminder to be still and know.

  7. Oh, my, J.D., you most definitely hit me with a message I needed. I get my hands dirty a lot on the farm and a lot in my work at church. But is all of it in service to our Father? You’ve asked some really tough questions and some of my answers show me changes are needed. Thank you for making me face the fact that some of my dirt is my doing and I need God’s help in cleaning that “mud” from my life. Wishing you a blessed day.

    1. Right there with you Ms. Katherine. I think it’s recognizing that we need God’s help to get ourselves cleaned up before we can be of greatest service to Him is an important step. Sure glad I’m not taking those sometimes tentative steps alone my friend. Thank you for the blessing today.

  8. I am finding the meaning I give to what happens or to what is said to me is more important than the action or the words! I need to be in tune with God’s Spirit in me and allow Him to ascribe the correct meaning.

    1. I so often think you are highly attuned to God’s calling in your life ma’am. I read it in your encouraging comments and your wonderfully written and knowledge sharing blog posts each week. You and my writing friend Ms. Katherine Pasour should definitely meet if you’ve not done so yet. So much in common. Other than NY and NC of course. 🙂

  9. Great message my friend. I agree with you. I would add that many have surrendered much in order to gain more in this earthly life. We all need dirty hands and feet for Christ. Thanks JD

    1. Thank you Ms. Yvonne. How very true. I sometimes wonder how different our world would be if more folks had strived to seek God as much as they did to seek worldly gain or recognition.

  10. Ouch. This one pinches. I could give you all my excuses, but it wouldn’t make any difference. After all, the Lord had heard them so many times, and He’s the one I need to be doing business with anyway. We struggle with ourselves, and the Lord is so patient, but He keeps leading us “further up, further in,” Thanks for getting me all stirred up this evening.

    1. Sure glad to know I’m in great company Ms. Dottie. It’s much easier for me to make an excuse for something than it is to accept responsibility for it. Doing the latter is most certainly a sign we’re maturing our faith, isn’t it? God’s blessings sweet friend. I’m pullin’ for ya.

    1. Thank you Ms. Kathy. We certainly do need to do a better job within the church. I realize I’m “painting with a broad brush” here my artistic friend, but I wonder how if we did a better job within the church-house of showing God’s love, then would we be more effective outside the church-house in showing God’s true love in the world? God’s blessings my gentle and precious friend.

    1. Yes ma’am. You and me both. What I like best about the GoJo brand hand cleaner I use is its gentleness and effectiveness. Dad also had a dispenser above the sink at our family’s Texaco station that contained an abrasive powder that we would dispense and mix with a pink liquid to clean our hands. While it was probably less expensive (my dad wasn’t a cheapskate necessarily, but he did his best to get $0.12 out of every dime), it required more work and left my hands not quite as clean and certainly more dry and scaly. God’s grace and mercy, He dispenses with His lessons of faith, is delivered with much more of the balm-like cleansing of the GoJo cleansing. This isn’t to say that if you don’t avail yourself of the opportunity to use His spiritual “GoJo”, that he won’t resort to the more abrasive scrubbing our souls need, but His preferred method is gentleness. I love that thought; “Spiritual GoJo”. I’ll have to remember that one! 🙂

    1. Thank you Ms. Annie. I’m not sure that I demonstrated “the way”, but I shared “my way” at least. 🙂 I think the important part is not how we get to that place of submission and learning from Christ, but that we seek it until we find it. Much of that seeking, for me at least, is getting my heart and mind in the right frame/place to accept God’s teaching. That’s where the constant cleaning comes in my sweet friend. Thank you so much for all your encouragement and kindness.

  11. God is working on me in this area, Mr. J.D., and I thank you for sharing your relationship with Jesus, your wisdom, and your constant efforts to seek Him more. You demonstrate a great example of what faith looks like. ❤️

    1. Thank you Ms. Tammy. I believe God is working on all of us in these areas my friend; at least those of us who are willing to submit to God working in our lives. I’m certain many will deny this claim, but every Christian can do better in one area or another. I do not believe there can be such a thing as a “perfect Christian” here on this earth for the simple fact that we each still have our carnal, human, sin nature inside us. Until that is extracted upon our coming glorification, the sanctification process must continue. Hope that makes sense ma’am. God’s blessings little lady.

  12. Great lesson here. brother JD. I love your conversation with God, and I can identify with such words. In the meantime, may we get our hands dirty working for God and His kingdom as we grow in sanctification. May the Lord gently scrub our souls clean in His precious blood. Blessings, dear friend!

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. While my conversation with God is certainly nothing I would use as a “model”, I do encourage others to find their comfort in how they communicate. I’ve reached a point in my life to where I still am fearful and stand in awe of God and His endless power to create and control, I view Him as a trusted friend and advisor I can turn to for both comfort and counsel. Hope that makes sense. God’s blessings ma’am. As for the “soul-scrubbing”? It seems a constant need as I interact with this world, I’m bound to get some on and in me. Thank you for all your encouragement, ma’am.

  13. I enjoy getting “down and dirty.” The effort, the sacrifice, the obedience of it all feels right. It reminds of the great lesson from Henry Blackaby spoken long ago for us to join God where He is working. No, I can’t do a lot, but, by golly, I can do a little in my corner of the world. Gosh, I remember sweating like a hound dog in India on a mission trip once. Even the sweat pores on my head made my hair wet every day. And it felt GREAT!

    1. Amen. It’s when we engage in the things that God has called us to do that we feel that sense of satisfaction and value in our lives. Too often, as you pointed out in last week’s post, we tend to get so busy doing so many things that we do very few of them effectively. Your point of “we may not be able to change the world, but we can change are small part of it” rings so true. If each of us would endeavor to do what God directs us to do rather than trying to live up to some worldly standard, then the world would be in a much different place my friend. It all starts at home, doesn’t it?

  14. i love that you said, “but when I need to gain understanding of God’s Word, I start with prayer. Prayer is that tool that makes a spirit-connection between my physical world and God’s spiritual world.”
    This lesson gives much great wisdom.

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