“Look, I’m sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore, be as shrewd as serpents and as harmless as doves.” Matthew 10:16
I’ve always loved this verse. Although, I still get a little “uh, oh” feeling when I read the word shrewd. Let’s be honest, it isn’t right up there with turn the other cheek, love one another and forgive. As I think about it, maybe it’s not even the word shrewd, but the fact that it’s associated with a serpent that turns me off. If it said, “be as shrewd as an owl” maybe I wouldn’t have the same reaction. Just a thought.
Anyway, I digress. Shrewd is defined as having or showing sharp powers of judgment. That’s a quality I admire in anyone who has it. Shrewd is a synonym for astute, sharp-witted, smart, intelligent, clever, perceptive, wise and savvy. Again, all things I strive to be. So, I’ve gone from getting the “uh-oh” feeling about shrewd to having the “oh, yeah!” feeling.
But, Jesus didn’t just say, “be shrewd”. He said to be both shrewd and harmless. They are like a dynamic duo that need one another to succeed. Like Batman needs Robin and Tom needs Jerry. I have met people who are shrewd but not harmless and harmless but not shrewd. It can be risky and unpredictable to be one, but not the other. Together, however, they are a powerful team that leads to survival in this wild world that constantly tries to rip us apart from understanding and sharing the truth, grace, and love of our Heavenly Father.
Simply put, don’t be gullible, foolish or unsuspecting. Don’t be easily taken in or taken advantage of. Ask questions, seek the truth, respond with wisdom and discernment. And on top of that, do it with an inoffensive and gentle demeanor. Whew! Honestly, that can be a tall order for me some days.
This week, I need to sit down and reflect on the times I’ve responded the way Jesus told me to (being shrewd and harmless). What assisted me in following the correct path? Was it prayer, Bible study, more margin in my day, joy in my heart, a completed “to-do” list . . . or maybe all five. And what about all the times I only responded with one of the dynamic duos? What were my stumbling blocks to following Jesus’s instructions? Had I skipped my quiet time with God, left out prayer that day, forgot fitting in wasn’t the point of my life, packed my day with selfish things I could put off, but wouldn’t?
In this life, we shouldn’t fit in. As followers of Christ we should stick out and be like Salmon swimming upstream, but it can be tiring to fight against the world. As sheep among wolves, we have to constantly keep our guard up against obstacles, distractions, and sin. We must be both shrewd and harmless. We must stick to God’s Word, but with grace, compassion and no judgment. We can’t assume what others say is the truth, but read it for ourselves the Bible.
Following and sharing Christ isn’t easy, but filling up our hearts and minds with His word and instructions will guide, direct, protect and give us the strength and wisdom to make it happen.