Snakes and Doves
In Matthew 10:16, Jesus summoned His 12 disciples together. He sent them out to preach the good news and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness. He gave them very specific instructions in verses 5 through 15 of chapter 10. In verse 16 he told them, “Look, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves.”
I don’t know about you but that sounds like a scary proposition to me. In other words, He is giving them certain authority to cast out demons and heal sickness but from a position of vulnerability, as defenseless as sheep among wolves. That’s a pretty graphic picture. I like wolves and admire much about them but as a sheep I’d be pretty much out of my comfort zone running with a pack of hungry wolves. In Acts, 20:29 the writer warns the early church that savage wolves will come among them not sparing the flock. In this case, the savage wolves are actually false teachers. It is likely Jesus is warning His disciples about false teachers and false prophets rather than a literal wolf (canis lupus)
The expression “harmless as doves” could mean simply innocent, inoffensive, or non-threatening.
The expression “shrewd as serpents” led me to do a little research and I was surprised at what I learned. Apparently only 1% of snakes are venomous and only bite when cornered. They are, however, extremely adept at keeping themselves concealed and escaping dangerous situations rapidly. Accordingly, they choose their fights and only when the situation is on their terms.
This is good advice for us when we are sharing the good news because clearly, as followers of Jesus we are called to share the story of God’s gift of salvation. In being shrewd, or wise, we avoid traps and snares and by being harmless or innocent we simply are to refrain from doing evil.
My prayer is that we can be encouraged to share God’s amazing love for us and the good news of His grace and mercy toward us and in so doing we are meek and gentle as sheep, innocent and harmless as doves but wise and shrewd as a snake. That is what Jesus expects of us.
The View from Peggy’s Pew