Matthew 10:16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
The Message version puts it this way. “Stay alert. This is hazardous work I’m assigning you. You’re going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don’t call attention to yourselves. Be as shrewd as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.” Matthew 10:16 MSG.
The first thing that stands out to me is that we, as Christians, are to stand out from the crowd. They are a bunch of wolves and we are to be sheep. Huge difference between wolves and sheep. Not even similar. So why does the church look so much like the world today? It’s not supposed to be that way. Take a look at your life. Do you stand out from the world around you? When you lay your life up along side the world, is there a stark contrast between the two? It’s a little convicting when I think of how I measure up.
The second thing we are told here is that we are to be as shrewd as snakes. Or as the King James Version puts it, wise as serpents. In Genesis 3;1 we read, “Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made.” Snakes are more crafty, shrewd, cunning, sly, and subtle than any other wild animal. Does this go against what Jesus just said about being so different from the world? I don’t think so. It seems to me that we are to maintain are identity as sheep without allowing our differences to become the focus. What a turn off to the lost when all we do is point out our differences.
Finally, we are told to be as innocent as doves. Innocent and pure, harmless, without evil. What a beautiful picture. Believers are to keep themselves unspotted by the world. “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” James 1:27. I have not done a good job of keeping myself innocent and pure. Thank God that He is good at washing me clean! “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” Isaiah 1:18.