Be As Shrewd as a Snake

Matthew records a unique exhortation that Jesus gave his disciples as they were being sent out to share the good news. Jesus warns them, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16).

As kind as Jesus was, too many of the people of his day did not like him. Some were very violent. The disciples would also run into antagonistic people. All of the Apostles except John died a martyr’s death. Jesus’ words were fulfilled, All men will hate you because of me,… (Mark 13:13a).

Even today people are anti-Christian. Some in other countries are violently anti-Christian and against the will of God. In the US we can also run into those who are against the Christian faith to one degree or another (fortunately so far not violently). To the disciples and to Christian people down through the ages, Jesus warning is important.   Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.


Do not Hiss or Slither

To be “as shrewd as snakes” is not a warning to be afraid or hiss like a snake. Jesus counseled his disciples not to be afraid. …Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). The LORD’s words to Joshua certainly apply, Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

To be “as shrewd as snakes” is not an encouragement to be ashamed of our faith or to slither away in fear. Paul wrote in Romans, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile” (Romans 1:16). Instead of being ashamed, we can be bold “Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2 Corinthians 3:10).


Shrewdly Consider Our Environment

“Be as shrewd as a snake” encourages us to be aware of the world around us. Do not assume that everyone will like our Christian faith. Neither assume that everyone will despise our Christian faith. Watch and be aware of the spiritual relationships around us and how we are interrelating with them. Give thought regarding what we believe and why. Be willing to courageously express that faith but with shrewd awareness of how that honesty will come across in the world. Do not watch the world around us in fear of how a Christian might be misunderstood, but 1) be willing to accept the consequences of spiritual truth, and 2) be prepared mentally to answer with the Spirit, and with love. Consider our daily life and be willing to show our faith with such godly fruits as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22,23). Nor are we to hide our Christian faith under a figurative basket. Do not be surprised if someone we know takes a stand against our Christianity. Try to sense their negative reaction before it happens, and lovingly and yet courageously react with humble strength.


To Our Shrewdness Add Peace and Love

To our shrewdness also add “be as innocent as doves.” The love of Jesus for all people and the Gospel message is to be central of our attitudes and actions. 1 Peter 3:14b,15 “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.” 15 But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, …   The Christian faith should always be dove like – filled with peace and love, and the innocence that arises from living a godly life. Love and respect those who may not love and respect you.


Power Mixed with Peace

Have a humble courage. We know who our LORD is and that we are redeemed through him. We are to be courageous in that truth because of the faith that we have been given. At the same time, never let your courage become arrogance or superiority. Always have a courage that is guided by humility.

Let our strength in Christ also be kind. To be God’s people means to have an inner strength. We do not need to have a low self-esteem, self-deprecating, self-judgmental, self-derogatory nature.   The LORD wants us to be strong and to be strong with a kindly nature.

Know that the LORD encourages a humble confidence. A Christian can be self-assured and does not need to demean himself, herself or others. At the same time we will be tempted to have a self-centered confidence. Instead have a humble confidence.


Sin Based Hatred Needs No Reason

The people of Jesus’ day had no reason for their hatred or violence against Jesus. Certainly Jesus did speak the Law of God, but that was no reason for anger and hatred. Their hatred arose because of their sinful nature and ultimately their anger at God and the truth that his Will is correct. Certainly they had no reason to express anger or hatred against the Gospel. There is no reason to get angry or violent when someone speaks about love, forgiveness and the death of Jesus for all sins. All of the same central truths of the Bible are true today. Still there will always be those who will hate the LORD and is people.

At one and the same time, be shrewd as you live your Christian life and be innocent. Jesus said, Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid (John 14:27). The writer to the Hebrews also adds, So we say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6)


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