Prepare – Matthew 10:16
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
Do you ever read the Bible and wish Jesus had taught something a different way? For me, this is one of those verses.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been scared of snakes. As soon as I found out that Indiana Jones didn’t like snakes, I knew I was in good company. Why did Jesus have to use snakes as a positive example in this verse about wisdom? Maybe someday I’ll ask Him in person.
There are 3 movements in this verse about what it means to live wisely. Let’s slow down and re-read Matthew 10:16: “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
First, recognize there is real danger for people of faith. Jesus’ followers are being sent out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Wolves are crafty animals who harm sheep. Sheep are vulnerable. Sheep need the protective help of their shepherd (see also John 16:33). You and I live in a world that is hostile to our faith. Keep reading in Matthew 10:17-31 to see how the wolves of Jesus’ day treated God’s sheep. It wasn’t pleasant.
Second, wisdom will help you live well. Jesus tells us to, “be wise as serpents.” Snakes navigate around danger. Snakes run behind a rock when they see a threat. Snakes rarely fell for the traps set for them. Jesus often modeled a refusal to be caught in a trap set for him, for example see how he handled a question about paying taxes in Mark 12:13-17.
Third, blameless is a kingdom quality we should all aspire to. Jesus tells us to, “be innocent as doves.” In spite of the world, our flesh, and the devil, we have an opportunity to display qualities of God’s character in how we live (1 Peter 1:15-16). Don’t give people a legitimate reason to accuse you of injustice or immorality. Your reputation matters.
Sometimes I think Peter had this teaching in mind as he wrote in 1 Peter 2:12, “Keep your conduct Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.”
We all have a role to play in living wisely. Let’s live in such a way that we don’t easily fall into the world’s traps and use every opportunity to advance the kingdom of God.
~ Pastor Jonas Bundy