Wise as Serpents and Innocent as Doves (Matthew 10:16) - Radical

Wise as Serpents and Innocent as Doves (Matthew 10:16)

“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

Matthew 10:16 is a pep talk Jesus is giving to his disciples right before he sends them out. He says, “I am sending you out as sheep in the middle of wolves.” Now, we don’t do a lot of shepherding with sheep. I think most of us who are listening to this podcast, certainly me like, I’m not a shepherd. I am a pastor. Yes, I’m a shepherd in a biblical sense, but talking about physically spending all my days outside with sheep, leading them through the land. And I’m guessing most of us have not made our livings that way, who are listening to this podcast. But as we read this imagery, just try to put yourself in the shoes of someone who knows exactly what that means.

Matthew 10:16 Leads Us to Ask God to Help Us to Be Obedient

Father, help us to be obedient to Your Word. Let’s live not for the applause of men, but for the glory of God.

Your job as a shepherd is to keep the sheep safe from the wolves. That’s what you do. It’s what you work hard at every day. You feed the sheep, you take care of the sheep, and you protect the sheep. So this is Jesus, the Good Shepherd, the Great Shepherd, saying to his disciples, “I’m sending you out like sheep in the middle of wolves.” You don’t do that if you’re a shepherd, but Jesus is doing that here.

And it’s a clear reminder to every single one of us who is His follower, that Jesus has not designed us to live a life of comfort and ease, where all we receive is applause and reward from this world. And that’s not what Jesus is saying here to his disciples then, and to his disciples all throughout the gospels and what we see all throughout the New Testament to follow Jesus is to go into a world where people are adversarial towards you.

Matthew 10:16 Reminds Us to Fear God

Not that you provoke adversaries or try to create adversaries, but the reality is, as you go and live like Jesus and you go and proclaim Jesus, it will not be easy for you because the way this world responded to Jesus, i.e. crucified him, informs the way we understand how the world will respond to us.

So Jesus says be wise then. Wise as serpents. Be wise with how you live, and innocent, as innocent as doves. Be blameless, be pure, be Holy, and be smart, wise, going out in the fear of God, not the fear of man that’s later in Matthew 10:16 here. Fearing God, that’s wisdom. Remember that fear the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. You go out fearing God, living a life of holiness before Him, knowing that as you share the gospel in the world, you will be opposed. And you may lose friendships or may lose jobs. You may lose your life in some parts of the world.

This Verse Leads Us to Pray for the Unreached

As we pray continually for unreached people groups on this podcast, these unreached people, groups are unreached for a reason. They’re hard to reach, they’re difficult to reach, and in many circumstances, they are dangerous to reach. If you go and share the gospel, we were praying for the Malay few days ago, you will likely be imprisoned if not worse for sharing the gospel, for leading a Malay to become a follower of Jesus. That’s sheep in the middle of wolves. So the question is, are you and I willing to live the life that Jesus has called us to live, to go the places Jesus has called us to do, to carry out the commission Jesus has entrusted to us?

This Verse Leads Us to Trust Jesus

Oh God, we pray that the answer in every one of our lives would be a whole hearted yes, because we trust You. You are indeed the Good Shepherd. Jesus, you are the Great Shepherd. We trust you with our lives. So we pray, help us to go into our neighborhoods and workplaces right where we live, not fearing what might happen to our reputation, not fearing, what might even happen in our career, not fearing what might happen in our social standing. God, help us to fear you far more than these things and to share the good news of your love to point people to Jesus. Even if that might be costly right around us and God, even if that may be costly far from us.

This Verse Leads Us to Pray for the Maba People

God, as we pray today for the Maba people in Chad, the strongly Muslim people of half a million, God, we pray that you would give courage to followers of Jesus near them to go and share the gospel with them. Like sheep in the middle of wolves.

God, we pray that you would give Maba men and women courage to trust in you .realize that when they do, they’ll be looked at as sheep in the middle of wolves. And God, we pray that you would cause a movement of your grace and your love to spread in the name of Jesus throughout the Maba people of Chad and multitudes of other people, groups like them. God, help us we pray.

Each of us to follow you, knowing that we will find ourselves in the middle of wolves at times, but knowing you will not leave us alone, you will give us the wisdom we need in those moments. And God, we pray you’d help us to do all of this with blamelessness, with purity, with innocent love for you and for the people around us. God, help us to live this kind of Christianity, not the kind of Christianity we are prone to create that lives for applause and rewards from this world. Help us to live just as you’ve called us to live. According to Matthew 10:16. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

David Platt

David Platt serves as a pastor in metro Washington, D.C. He is the founder of Radical.

David received his Ph.D. from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and is the author of Don’t Hold Back, Radical, Follow MeCounter CultureSomething Needs to ChangeBefore You Vote, as well as the multiple volumes of the Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary series.

Along with his wife and children, he lives in the Washington, D.C. metro area.


That means that the people with the most urgent spiritual and physical needs on the planet are receiving the least amount of support. Together we can change that!