Sheep, Wolves, Serpents and Doves
February 19, 2019
by Steve Cartin, MDiv
“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matthew 10:16, NKJV).
Let’s face it. Not everyone in the dental “industry” has a passion for oral healthcare. For some, dentistry is a moneymaking opportunity. Christian owners of businesses are sometimes overwhelmed, sometimes misunderstood and sometimes conflicted.
Jesus’ statement to His disciples here in Matthew 10:16 provides heavenly instruction for walking our earthly journey. His specific context was that of the disciple being sent. But we know that late He said, “…even so send I you” (John 20:21, KJV); “…go and make make disciples…” (Matthew 28:19, NLT); and, “…you shall be My witnesses…” (Acts 1:8, NASB). We cannot—nor would we want to—escape the Savior’s call on our lives as living witnesses, sacrificing our wills for His (see Romans 12:1-2).
Some things were true of disciples then. They are nonetheless true today.
Wolves have no scruples. Wolves are predatory animals. They devour by nature. We are not being overly dramatic when we say that the world has it in for the elect. They can do no more than follow their leader, whom our Leader said has come “to rob, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10, CEV). Sadly, we meet some of these wolves in the daily conduct of life in the vocational calling God has place upon us. We live and work in a fallen world.
Sheep have no claws. Our battle is not with “…flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12, NKJV). Yet, how many times have the claws of our fallen nature jumped out in response to a fallen world? At those times, the world cannot tell the sheep from the wolves whether that world be team members, the doctor who “stole” our 20-year hygienist or the mechanic who overshot his estimate by $700. Too often I look in the mirror to admire a sheep only to see a prideful wolf staring back at me.
Jesus knows the wolves are out there. He came from heaven as the Lamb of God to walk through a world of wolves. So when He said that as He was sending us as the Father had sent Him, He knew we would be stepping out into spiritual danger. Paul knew it, too. He even warned about savage wolves (Acts 20:29). There’s not a day we crawl out of bed in which we should be surprised that wolves are on the prowl. But…
Jesus gives us a prescription to help us along the way, spiritual Dramamine to keep our heads from spinning and our stomachs from churning. It is one part mental acuity and another part personal submission.
The mental ingredient. Wisdom rules the day, guards the heart and steadies the soul. The write of Proverbs describes it as rooted in reverence, a holy fear, of the Lord our God (Proverbs 1:7). Reverence bows its head and bends its knee not just on holy days or in the assembly. It submits to a God who surrounds all, sees all, knows all and empowers all who yield their wills to His own. Scripture calls us to cultivate a mind of from which the best and right decisions will be made. “And (Abram) believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness” (Genesis 15:6, ESV). We are to take every thought captive, bringing it into obedience for Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and we are to renew our minds so true spiritual transformation takes place (Romans 12:2). Christ calls us to cultivate minds that empower wisdom walking for the business, interpersonal and family challenges we face.
The personal sacrifice. “…we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter” (Romans 8:36, KJV). It should not bother us that we are, seeing He has gone before us and cleared the way of all eternal danger. Lambs and doves remind us of our Lord who held His tongue before a blasphemous Sanhedrin and a pompous Pilate. It reminds us of our King who understood what to do and say in those situations where He knew that His time had “not yet come” (John 2:4; 7:6; 7:30; 8:20; 11:30). Too often we see parallel situations along our journey as an opportunity to seize the day, set someone straight or claim what is ours.
Whether in dentistry, ministry or a thousand vocational callings in which God has placed us, you bear the mark of a witness, sent from the throne of heaven. Expect to engage the powers of hell. The juxtaposition of serpents and doves reminds us all not to mistake meekness for weakness. But with minds trained by the word of God and shaped by the will of God, we are called to discern, decide and direct the business affairs before us to His glory, while doing no harm or giving no cause for brothers, sisters or even little children to go astray.
How are you going out to where He is sending you today?