“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16 KJV.
One of the first thoughts that come to mind at the mention of a serpent is the fall in Genesis 3 where the devil used the form of a serpent to deceive Eve. This, however, doesn’t mean the serpent always refers to evil.
The Bible repeatedly uses animals as metaphors admonishing us to adopt some of their unique qualities, like the hard-working nature of ants (Proverbs 6:6-8), the trusting nature of sheep (Ezekiel 34.31) and so on. This is also the case in our anchor scripture. Jesus, talking to the disciples and, by extension, us, admonishes that we should be wise as serpents as we fulfil the Great Commission. What does this mean?
We must recognize that the world can be hostile towards the Gospel, hence, as believers, whose mission is to win the whole world for Christ, we should be wise and discerning as we go about our mandate.
One way we can do this is by understanding the people we attempt to preach to and crafting our presentation of the message to maximise the impact on the listener. Jesus effectively used this approach at the well with the Samaritan woman in John 4:7-30.
We can also use our knowledge of the secular world to our advantage. Not every conversation about the Gospel has to start with the obvious, “God loves you” (although some should). A scene from a play, a news headline, or a song lyric could start up a conversation about the Gospel. We see Paul do this various times in the Bible using words of poets and other secular examples to explain the Gospel (Acts 17:22-31, 1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
We must however remember that the message of the Gospel will never change, the presentation can vary, but the core of the message remains the utter helplessness of man and the sovereign intervention of God in the sacrifice of Jesus. In our bid to reach more men, we mustn’t change the truth of the Gospel, that would be folly.
Another way we can be as wise as serpents is by knowing when to leave. Part of the wisdom of the serpent is knowing how and when to sneak away from danger. We should be discerning enough to know when to leave a conversation or environment when the Gospel is not being received. Jesus Christ (Luke 4:28-30) and the apostles (Acts 9:24-25, 17:14, 20:1) knew when and how to do this.
Amazingly, you don’t have to figure it all out by yourself, you have the Holy Spirit on your inside who gives the best inspiration and direction (John 14:16-17, Romans 8:11). As you go out taking territories for Christ, trust the Holy Spirit for wisdom, be wise as serpents.
CONFESSION: I am wise in my dealings with the world. By the Holy Spirit, I maximise the impact of my speech and responses in preaching the Gospel.
Bible Reading Plan: Psalms 7, 27