Editor’s note: This week’s free devotion comes from CTA’s devotion book for Christian workers and volunteers, Reflecting Christ. It features 25 quick-read devotions that emphasize the theme verse, Ephesians 5:1 (ESV): Be imitators of God, as beloved children. Don’t forget—CTA also offers FREE resources for this theme. Check out the staff retreat guide, Ministry Message, and poster.

Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16 ESV).

Sheep. Wolves. Serpents. Doves. It’s quite a menagerie! Whatever can our Lord mean, and how can we wisely apply his words?

“Behold,” Jesus begins. Look! Pay attention! Our Master wants us to know what to expect as we serve. We are sheep, and we are surrounded by wolves. They do not have our best interests at heart.

When critics find fault with us, when opponents look for ways to shut us down or shut us up, we need not be surprised. When family members ridicule us or walk away, we need not find it shocking. Jesus already told us this would happen. We are sheep, and wolves will always lurk close by.

Because this is true, our Lord urges us to combine the best qualities of two other creatures—serpents and doves—as we serve.

The serpent is cunning, subtle, and aware of its surroundings. It hides expertly in times of danger, but it also strikes out in fury at its enemies when hiding is not possible.

The dove is completely harmless, guileless, and calm. These very factors leave it weak, vulnerable to attack.

Either creature, by itself, sets a poor example for Christ’s servants. But Jesus combines the best in each to teach us a wonderfully wise approach to opposition.

Like both serpents and doves, we refuse to expose ourselves to unnecessary dangers. Serpentlike, we wisely avoid threats, unless duty requires us to face them. Dovelike, we avoid provoking attack. We give no unnecessary offense.

Like both serpents and doves, we avoid the traps set for us, whenever we can do that with integrity. Still, we serve and witness boldly. We do not seek martyrdom, but neither do we cower if it comes.

The apostle Peter sums it up beautifully:

Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame (1 Peter 3:14–16 ESV).

Prayer starter: Lord Jesus, teach me to be as wise as a serpent and as innocent as a dove, especially . . .

 

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