Wise As A Serpent

By Marvin Nemitz on February 1, 2022

HCC Monthly Harvest Seed

Matthew 10:16 - “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore, be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.

For me this is one of the most shocking statements that Jesus ever made to His disciples. To us. The Concept of this verse is easy to understand but is filled with rich teaching to mature us and equip us.

Jesus said I am sending you out into the world and you are sheep in the midst of wolves. In the natural, you look like prey, but I want you as sheep to be wise as serpents and innocent and harmless as a dove. Jesus warned us that serving Him in this world was going to put us in difficult situations with people. 

Jesus told His disciples that we were not to just be sheep or followers who depended completely on the Shepherd, but we were to have the wisdom of a serpent and the innocence of a dove.

This idea of being wise as a serpent confuses us because when we think of serpents we think of snakes, and we think of Satan in the garden.  We associate snakes with slithering, biting and killing. We only understand part of the analogy.

We must remember that God made the snake the same way that He made the eagle.  Too many Christians confuse the wisdom of a serpent with the character of a snake. There are characteristics that God gave it that teach us how to function in the world we live in wisely. Genesis 3:1a - Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. 

The serpent had a key personality trait. It was cunning.

Cunning speaks of intelligence shrewdness, cleverness and smarts.

People assume that sheep are stupid. They are not. They are vulnerable, but they are intelligent and relational.

Jesus said I am sending you out as sheep among wolves you are vulnerable. Therefore, you need to be a wise as a serpent and innocent as a dove. We get the idea of sheep and doves, but most Christians do not understand the idea of being wise as serpents because there is very little teaching on it.

The world assumes that we are sheep, stupid, slow, dependent, clean and pure. We need to understand that clean, innocent and pure does not mean naïve.  As a matter of fact, a dove is the symbol of the Holy Spirit and one of the names of the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Wisdom.

If all we see ourselves is as sheep and doves, then we will always be prey for the enemy.  Let’s be honest, all too often Christians operate in the world naively and not wisely. I want you to know that you can be innocent, pure and dependent on God for everything and still be one shrewd cookie.

The Bible tells us that we are the head and not the tail. We are not a predator, but neither are we prey.  Jesus had to address the idea of His disciple acting and living in this world with greater wisdom  Luke 16:8 - So the master commended the unjust steward because he had dealt shrewdly. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in their generation than the sons of light.

God wants us to understand the wisdom of being clever, smart and shrewd when we are dealing with the world.

One of the lessons that we can learn from the serpent is that they know how to blend into their environment.

A serpent is not a chameleon, but they are a master of camouflage.

We are in the world, but we are not of the world.

It is important to understand that we are different than the rest of the world. We do not think like the world, talk like the world, believe like the world but there we are in the middle of it all. The world is our environment so we must learn to live in it.

Whenever a snake comes into a new place or interacts with a new environment it takes time to acclimate to the climate and culture.

Many Christians assume that to be a good Christian they need to announce that they are a Christian and immediately set to work changing a place.

I guarantee you that on our church property and around your home there are snakes.  You don’t even know that they are there. They are laying low, getting to know the territory they are quiet, and they are blending into their surroundings. We are called to reach our world with the Gospel, but they do not even have a desire to be reached. We must get to know them, how they think and talk. What they enjoy. What hurts them and what excites them.  1 Corinthians 9:22-23 -to the weak I became as weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. 23 Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be partaker of it with you.

Paul says I become all things to all people that I might all means reach some. Everywhere I have lived I had to learn the culture and the customs of a place. When you work at a place become like the culture there, so you have the right to speak into their lives.

Camouflage is a protective covering it helps you to settle into your environment. Helps you to move around and get to know a place. It also provides you with safety.

A sheep who acts like a sheep among wolves immediately is identified as prey. A snake that is immediately identified as a snake immediately is reacted negatively too and will experience immediate resistance.  At work at school, we are to be a part of the people we are with.

 – Now remember innocent as doves. This means that we are like Jesus who ate with sinners but did not sin with the sinners.

Remember in order for Jesus to save the world He had to come in the likeness of man. He became one of us but was without sin.

One of the key traits of a serpent is how slowly they move.

It is wise to move slowly and deliberately through life.

James 1:19 - Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry. Quick, Slow, Slow - Serpents are always listening.

Many people like to jump to conclusions, instead of listening to what people are saying and really mean as they read between the lines. Many have a quick temper and a short fuse. Serpents never seem to be in a hurry. They can sit still for hours, or they will just slither along. It’s not that they cannot move fast they are just careful and know how to conserve their energy. Many times, we do life in this world by acting too fast or making split decisions when we have plenty of time to think and gather facts.

We need this wisdom in personal relationships and in business relationships.  Keen business people take their time. They don’t jump at every opportunity. People with lasting and fruitful friendships and relationships are slow to get to know people and slow to bring them close. By moving slowly, we get to understand people and situations. We get to observe the landscape and see if there are any dangers. This does not mean paralysis by analysis. But taking time to observe and learn.  The truth is many times it is better to be quiet and listen, to lay low and just observe.  Serpents are absolutely fine with little action and quiet. We should be as well. Moving slowly keeps us from making pour decisions and allows us plenty of time to avoid obstacles and setbacks.

Christian we are called to live wisely and shrewdly in this world. This will cause us to be victorious.

Know that you are loved
Pastor Marvin & Dawn

Image by Narupon Promvichai from Pixabay

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