Shrewd and Innocent

By: Bud Rose

Matthew 10: 16

I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.


Every so often we may find a person in our workplace, church, or family who might complain frequently, argue at the drop of a hat, or slander others. We may even need to stand ready to alert this individual, if they begin sharing inappropriately about another, that we really don’t want to hear anything that harms another’s reputation.

A few months ago, I received a phone call from someone whom I had previously told I would not listen to his sharing about others’ faults. I answered the phone and the caller immediately started to gossip about someone. I hesitated and was caught off guard, even though I was already aware of the information since the other individual involved had told me.

I thought for a moment and responded with, "Really?" Bad choice! The caller actually knew I was aware of the situation he was discussing and assumed from my response that I was pretending not to know. He was very angry with me, calling me a liar, etc. The call ended in a very disturbing manner.

That night, I had trouble sleeping, knowing I was in the wrong, but not sure why. My motive had been to change the subject. However, I don't recommend using the word "really" to effect that change. It was clear that the caller was deeply offended and that I was the villain in his mind. What I should have done was to take my old stance on the issue by saying, "I am not interested in discussing this person’s faults."

By not asking the Holy Spirit to guide me, I had allowed myself to be drawn in. I had responded by whipping out a quick response that could have had many meanings. I believe the Lord was teaching me a lesson.

Many years ago, John Chrysostom wrote about this verse, “The Lord insisted on the cleverness of a snake so that deadly wounds might be avoided, and he insisted on the innocence of the dove so that revenge might not be taken on those who injure or lay traps for you. Cleverness is useless without innocence."

I had jumped ahead of the Holy Spirit, my innocence. So, I was still confused about what to apologize for. I felt like the Lord led me to ask forgiveness for using the word, "really", which had caused this person much grief and anxiety.

It didn't really matter what my intention was; I had confused him. I told him I was very sorry and asked his forgiveness, which was granted. I was set free from the bondage of the enemy and his cleverness. I thank the Holy Spirit for guiding me through this trial and lesson in loving others.


TAKE THE CHALLENGE: What does it look like to balance shrewdness with innocence? Am I striking this balance in my dealings with others?