Shrewd and Innocent

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

What I love about what Jesus says to His disciples in Matthew 10:16 is the imagery He uses to say it. First, He warns them – they are being offered up as “sheep among wolves.” This was a pretty intense statement in those days. If the disciples weren’t shepherds themselves, they probably knew someone personally who was. Therefore, they were familiar with the mortal danger of being sheep among a pack of wolves. Right from the start, the picture being painted for them wasn’t pretty.

Second, Jesus throws out two symbols from the opposite end of the good/evil spectrum. He tells the disciples to be “shrewd as snakes.” Most people at that time thought of the most cunning character in the Bible when they pictured a snake. Because of His strong language here, the disciples knew Jesus was telling them to be crafty and sharp as they approached the pack of wolves. But with His second statement, Jesus cuts off the disciples’ possible need to find sneaky ways to share His Message with others. He lets them know that they must be “as innocent as doves,” which means, no scheming and no lying.

I can only imagine how difficult this task must have seemed to these men as they listened to their Lord’s instructions. Be careful, it’s going to be really dangerous. Make sure you are discerning and clever, but don’t ever lie or cheat to get My Message across to others. It’s a tall order.

There have been seasons in my life when I trusted everything that everyone said; and seasons when I trusted nobody and had no hope. For the most part, my life has been filled with this kind of black and white thinking. What I get from this instruction from my Savior is a command to find balance. Jesus is telling me to be poised when I interact with others. He is telling me to take care of myself, know my situation, and be kind. He is telling me to act with dignity, self-respect, and respect for others. And He is telling me to be safe by knowing where I am going and who will be there.

Not only does this verse give me clear direction for traveling through life, but it also reminds me of the importance of self-care when I am in situations where others may not be as trustworthy or receptive as I would like them to be. While I don’t think Jesus wants me to be suspicious of everyone with whom I come in contact, I do believe He wants me to be discerning about my circumstances. Simply put, He loves me and wants me to be safe in carrying His message.

As I travel the earth each day,
I pray dear Lord You will show me
when I need to be
the sheep,
the snake,
or the dove.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s