Be as Shrewd as Serpents and Innocent as Doves

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

The Scripture speaks strongly to us in the face of persecution or tribulation that will happen as Jesus prophesied. In the face of this circumstance, it takes shrewdness and innocence to be able to go through it. In the last days, the Apostle Paul foretold a time when love would be lacking. A time when life is getting more and more difficult.  Subtly, persecution seems to come in an alternative form that makes the Christian life not easy and challenging.

In general, shrewdness is usually connected with cunning, while innocence is often associated with ignorance and sincerity. Both have characters that seem contradictory and incompatible. But in the above verse, the Lord Jesus Himself taught us that both could be present in believers simultaneously.

The Greek word used for shrewdness in Matthew 10:16 is ‘Phronimos’, which can be translated into wise, intelligent and prudent and it talks about has a long-term implication. Especially the word ‘wise’ and ‘prudent’, these words indeed talk about the accuracy of a decision today that has an impact on a better future.

In the Jewish tradition, the serpent is one of the first 9 animals that God created. It was not without reason that the term used to tease the devil is ‘the old serpent’ especially because the Bible mentioned that the devil chose to tempt Adam and Eve in the form of a serpent in the book of Genesis. If the serpent has such a bad reputation, why did the Lord Jesus, who is all-wise, use serpent in His teaching? Of all its uniqueness, the snake has a very unique radar. Its reptile’s eyes are actually nearsighted, but the snake has two unique sensors to discern the surroundings. Heat sensor in its mouth and sense sensor on its tongue, which enable the snake to detect prey, danger, and discern the circumstances around it. This confirms the meaning of the word ‘Phronimos’ as the ability and way of discerning situations and reacting according to the wisdom that looks far ahead.

In Matthew 10:16, the word Akeraios is used for sincerity, which means: unmixed, pure, free from guile, innocent, and simple. While shrewdness talks about the methods and ways, sincerity talks about motivation. Motivation will drive an action or decision. In some situations, circumstances can disrupt motivation and ultimately cancel or distort an action. Sincere motivation is not affected by situations. Psalm 15:4 says that one of the characteristics of those who are worthy to ascend to the holy mountain of God is those who keep their promises or vows, even to his own disadvantage.

Doves apparently have some abilities like snakes in terms of discerning the surrounding situation. Its beak contains metal that functions like a compass, capable of reading the earth’s magnetic field. Its sharp eyes can see up to 26 miles. Its sharp hearing is able to ‘read’ the surrounding wind and detect storm that is coming, even when it is still far away. This ability to discern situations is what made the pigeons used as an effective news delivery for centuries. Doves still have other strengths. Doves have long been known as a symbol of sincerity and loyalty. Loyalty, because doves never change partners; and sincerity, because doves are docile, gentle and often found in pure white. Sincerity and love are the driving force that God desires all believers to have in every decision and step of the way, from now until Maranatha, the second coming of Lord Jesus. Amen

                                                                                                   Source: GBI Gatot Subroto’s Bulletin, Jakarta