Sometimes, just the word ‘snake’ makes people’s skin crawl. Other times, the word ‘snake’ conjures up an image of a long skinny reptile shedding its outgrown skin in order to keep growing. But, heebeegeebees and science aside, the word ‘snake’, especially in the Bible, reminds us of Satan or a conniving trickster. So, it’s surprising that Jesus suggests to the twelve disciples they be “shrewd as snakes”. In the same breath, he also suggests that they go into the world “like sheep” and be “innocent as doves”.
Is it possible to survive the ‘wolves’ and yet maintain a pure disposition? Yes, but first we must understand the following three paradoxes:
- Humble, Not Weak: Jesus reiterates that His directive to reach non-believers is dangerous and warns the disciples: “be on your guard against men…” (Matthew 10:17). He asks the disciples (and us) to be alert and observant. We must be strong in discernment and ferociously defend our reputations and our businesses against evil intent –yet do so with a mild and gentle spirit under the protection of our loving God.
- Pure, Not Naïve: Our hearts are to be whiter than snow (Psalm 51:7); the origin of our thoughts and actions unblemished. But, we are not to be immature or unaware of the ways of this earth. We are to have knowledge of the world around us –yet interact with wholesome objectives and expect the best from employees and vendors.
- Involved, Not Seduced: In order to reach a fallen world, we must understand it. That understanding doesn’t come from the safety of isolation; it comes from getting into the world, the ‘real world’. We are called to reflect His light into the darkness. We must reach out to those mired in immoral habits –yet lovingly support and mentor them without being enticed to participate.
I am reminded of a paradoxical objective held by Harvey Carey Ministries: “Invade urban areas with strategic, relevant and life-changing ministry”. This ministry holds church services on the lawns of crack houses and pays prostitutes for their time so women can hear the gospel rather than work the streets. Now that’s an example of living “like sheep among wolves”! Maybe it is time to challenge yourself and become “as shrewd as a snake”. Remember, even snakes shed their old skin in order to keep growing. The newly revealed scales are shining and new, just like God promised our hearts and spirits would be: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you.” (Ezekiel 36:26)
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Michelle Sugerman (PMP, PCC) is a speaker, author, and leadership coach with Leading Synergies. She hosts global masterminds, called Synergy Groups, for REALLY BUSY Christians leading with powerful confidence and humble hearts. She works with high-performing leaders focused on organizational effectiveness by refining strategy, inspiring teams, and delighting clients. Michelle specializes in the areas of information technology, project management, franchise management, and business as mission. Michelle lives in Colorado where she hikes fourteeners and enjoys gourmet meals with her loving husband of 21 years.