I have never been afraid of snakes. They were just a part of everyday life for a boy growing up in the country. There, I was taught that snakes were good; they ate the rodents that would destroy the crops.

When I was in fourth grade, a large glass box sat in the corner of my classroom. Inside lived a full-grown Western rat snake. Most of the time, we called snakes like this “blacksnakes.” Every farmer in my part of the country knew what a blacksnake looked like. They’re harmless to humans but deadly to rodents.

The blacksnake in our classroom was longer than I was tall and as big around as a golf ball. As spring break approached, our teacher wanted to know if anyone would take the snake home and care for it during the holiday. Most of the boys raised their hands, but the teacher called on me.

When school ended that day, the teacher looked for a box to hold the snake, but I told her I didn’t need one. I picked up the snake and wrapped it around my neck so it wouldn’t drag on the ground. I didn’t think anything about it as I boarded the old country school bus to go home.

When the bus driver pulled up to our stop and let my brothers and me off, I couldn’t wait to show my mother my temporary pet. I ran down the gravel road and into the house as fast as I could, only to find Mom taking a nap on the couch.

Proud that I had been entrusted with the classroom snake, I leaned down and whispered in her ear, “Mom, Mom, I got something to show you.”

Slowly, she opened her eyes, only to look directly into the face of the blacksnake. About the time her vision came into focus, the snake shot its tongue out toward her nose.

Never in my life had I heard a scream like that: it was a wonder Mom didn’t have a heart attack right there. Not understanding why she was screaming, I screamed too. It’s probably a good thing I don’t remember what happened after that.

Last Sunday was an exciting day for Titus the Honorable and Cohen the Goodhearted. The family was entering their church when they heard a woman yelling for help. Caleb and his two boys ran to the fellowship hall to see what the ruckus was all about. There, lying on the kitchen floor, was a small green snake.

Of course, my son wasn’t afraid. He picked up the snake and passed it on to Titus. Titus wanted to take it home and make it a pet; Cohen wanted to pull it apart. After some discussion, they ended up taking the little visitor outside to set it free.

Ever since Titus was very young, his father and I have not only taught him not to fear snakes but how to handle them. In fact, I have written in this column about taking Titus out into the woods where I had planted rubber snakes, so he could learn to properly identify them and pick them up.

Titus the Honorable and Cohen the Goodhearted, there is more than one kind of snake you should watch out for. First, there are the reptiles, like the one you found in the fellowship hall. But there is also the kind that slithers into a church, carrying false doctrine and trying to turn people’s hearts away from the truth. 

In the book of Revelation, God sends a messenger to the church of Ephesus. At first, the messenger hands out compliments. The church receives praise because the people knew how to identify the false prophets (you can also call them snakes) in their midst. “I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false” (Rev. 2:2).

The church at Ephesus contained some people who knew the Word of God so well that when some snake in the grass came along teaching doctrines contrary to the Word and the will of God, they could spot it right away. Not only could they spot it, but they knew how to handle it, too.

Boys, as part of your training, you need to hide God’s Word in your hearts. A true knowledge of his Word will help you identify the spiritual snakes that come around. And when it comes to handling this type of snake, follow your daddy’s example. He’s one of the best.

Titus and Cohen, Poppy knows that as you grow, you’ll meet both kinds of snakes. Train well, so you can handle them both.