Shrewd As Serpents


“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves.

~ Matthew 10:16 (CSB)


“The most difficult thing to achieve in the CHRISTIAN LIFE is balance.”

~Calvin C. Inman

I doubt if the disciples were comforted when Jesus said, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. What a contrast! Sheep are innocent and defenseless while wolves are ravenous and vicious. What are the odds when a sheep meets with a wolf? A sheep has no claws, no fangs, no horns and no way to defend itself. Besides its lack of equipment, the sheep is a timid animal and easily terrified. Jesus told us up front: You are the sheep and I am sending you out to the wolves. It is not a comforting thought. Then Jesus says something that has really puzzled bible scholars, be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. Another broad contrast; these two creatures, the serpent and the dove are polar opposites. A dove is helpless and harmless. The dove has no stomach for war; its only defense is flight. The snake on the other hand is vicious: snakes strike back and if you aren’t careful, they will strike first. Snakes look out for themselves. A college professor was making light of Jesus contrast: he told his class, “This is proof that Jesus was not omniscience, snakes are not wise creatures, their brains are not that complex. Jesus was mistaken.” One of the students raised his hand and presented a question, “Professor, how long do you think you could survive in this world without feet, legs, arms or hands?” No one likes snakes, at least, no normal person. Only devil worshippers and weirdos like snakes. Yet snakes have survived. How has the snake survived amidst all the hostility? It is a shrewd creature. It has the sense to stay out of sight. If every snake in the community gathered in my front yard this Saturday morning, we would call our friends and have us a good old-fashioned snake killing. This is not going to happen: the snake is too shrewd. It knows how to survive and that is by staying in the background.

Some people think Jesus is talking about the Martyr’s Complex. We should not go looking for persecution and we don’t need to call attention to ourselves. Obviously, we cannot have both the nature of a dove and a serpent unless we are schizophrenic. But Jesus is not talking about two natures: that presses the analogy too far; He is talking about two characteristics–We are to as harmless as doves but be as shrew as the serpent. We are not to be belligerent but neither are we to be cowards and take flight at the first sign of trouble. I have struggled for a life time with this issue; I do not like turning the other cheek. When someone punches me, I want to punch back. But this is not the Christian ethic; we do not retaliate, we make no attempt to get even. Peter addresses this in his epistle, So then, let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator while doing what is good.  This does not mean that we lay low, stay hidden, never open our mouths but it does imply an humble and gentle courage. John the Baptist never toned it down, he never stopped preaching the truth and yes, it got him arrested and beheaded. Yet, there has never been a more humble man than John. He never attempted to take the glory that belonged to Christ. John didn’t go looking for trouble but neither did he run from it. My father in the ministry, Calvin C. Inman told me repeatedly: “The most difficult thing in the Christian life to achieve is balance.” Yes, on the one side you need the gentleness, meekness of a lamb, the harmless nature of the dove but on the other side, you had better be rugged and tough like a snake because you are going to be stepped on, hunted and hated.

  • Wednesday has become my Nursing Home day; other than Betty Blackwood, everyone was having a better week. Jackie Stiles is getting ready to go home Saturday. Nell Brown was much better and recognized me immediately. Roger was in thearpy and he looked better and Mrs. Annie Murphy was in thearpy. I made the mistake of referring to Don as a step son, I want do that again. For some reason, I didn’t think until yesterday, this is Terri Nelsons grandmother. I have a hard time thinking of Don and Larry as brothers but that is how Mrs. Annie sees them and I going to go along. Mrs. Edith Orr was strolling down the hall in her wheel chair eating a hersie bar and wondering why no one showed up to play bingo. Mrs. Screws was taking a nap but I got to talk to Vickie who I had not seen in years.
  • Hospital Report. Our two members, Markham Sharp and Randy Green got to go home yesterdaty. LORD willing I am going to B’ham this morning and when I return, I’ve got to start getting ready for the BLOCK PARTY.
  • Well, I am on a new lap top…so far so good. I hope you have a great day and I know you are looking forward to those cooler tempts coming in this weekend.

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