I worked at QuikTrip in high school – it was actually one of my favorite jobs I ever had. That means I was juuuust old enough to remember when we had to compare signatures to the backs of credit cards to verify identity.
Signatures are something we don’t think much about – especially since they’re falling out of use, but for a period of several hundred years, they were an important statement – a person’s signature inscribed on a document marked as belonging to that person. If I signed my name to a check, or to a receipt, I affirmed that I was authorizing a monetary transaction. Signing it on a legal contract indicated I’m staking my reputation and resources to that particular agreement.
Writing your name to verify a document has pretty ancient roots – we find it as far back as the Romans, who would sign their names at the bottom of legal documents. (In fact, the word ‘signature’ itself comes from the Latin word that means “about to be sealed”.)
But, as hard as it is to believe, signatures weren’t required by law until 1677, when the English Parliament passed the State of Frauds act. And from 1677 until very recently, signatures were considered one of the best ways to prevent fraud – someone stealing your identity or your money.
But that’s all changed recently. Do you remember the first time you realized the signature you put on the card machine in a checkout lane didn’t match your real signature?
And I don’t know if you’ve had to deal with identity theft or credit card theft, but do you know what they ask you? “Can you confirm these charges?”, not, “Can we compare signatures?”
Signatures on credit cards have become security theater – they make us feel more secure, but they’re not. They’re so insecure that banks and credit institutions don’t even bother to check them.
So what’s a signature worth, these days? How can you prove you’re really you? And if you want to guarantee something, how do you go about it?
Let’s explore guarantees – specifically how God guarantees our salvation. Let’s consider the Holy Spirit as God’s signature on our lives, marking us as God’s and announcing to the world whose we are.