Commands of Christ

Be Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves

Where is this command found?

“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

Applying This Command

Have you ever thought of what snakes and doves have in common? In Matthew 10:16, Jesus gives us the command Be Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves. In this passage, Jesus refers to the God-given characteristics of the snake and the dove. By understanding these amazing traits, they can help us in fulfilling this command.

In the world in which we live, many hate God’s Word and even desire to attack those who share it. This is where we can apply this command and learn from God’s creation. The snake is wise and often avoids conflicts while the dove is harmless and gentle. We need God to give us both His wisdom and gentleness to rightly respond to those who malign us for righteousness sake.

But, if we fail to learn to respond in this Christ-like manner, the results can be catastrophic! Not only will it bring harm to ourselves, but we may also lose future opportunities to share the love of Jesus with those that were negatively impacted by our wrong response. It is by humility and total dependence upon God and His Word that the lost will see Jesus exhibited in our responses. This can be the very catalyst that Christ uses to draw them to Himself.

Bible Verses for Meditation

In addition to meditation on Matthew 10:16, meditating on the verses below will provide you with further insight and understanding of Christ’s command: Be Wise as Serpents.

Proverbs 15:1

“A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.”

Romans 16:19–20

“For your obedience is come abroad unto all men. I am glad therefore on your behalf: but yet I would have you wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”

Isaiah 11:2–3

“And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and he shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of his ears.”

Matthew 10:19

“But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak.”

Proverbs 16:23

“The heart of the wise teacheth his mouth, and addeth learning to his lips.”

I Peter 3:15

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.”

Related Episodes

From the Podcast

Dive deeper into the command Be Wise as Serpents, Harmless as Doves with these episodes from the Commands of Christ podcast!

Study Question

Q: When God told Gideon to destroy his father’s altar, Gideon did it at night for fear of the men who worshiped Baal. Did Gideon demonstrate wisdom or a lack of boldness? (See Judges 6:25–32.)

A: Though a general demands obedience from his troops when they are given an order, he also expects them to be aware and alert to possible dangers. A wise soldier is willing to submit his physical body to the direction of his leader, and yet he constantly should use his mind to accomplish the assigned mission.

When Gideon tore down his father’s altar, he chose to do it at night “because he feared his father’s household, and the men of the city” (Judges 6:27).

He demonstrated wisdom rather than a lack of boldness because he obeyed the Lord’s command in the very night he received it and avoided what no doubt would have been a disastrous situation if he had done it during the day. The next morning, the men of the city were shocked to see that the altar had been broken down. Upon discovering that Gideon had done it, they demanded that his father bring him out to be killed.

The intriguing account that follows testifies to the fact that Gideon’s discretion and wisdom were used by God to convict an entire nation of their unfaithfulness to Him.

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