How Are We To Be “Wise As Serpents”?
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
In the Word of God, the serpent is a figure of Satan, and the serpent in the Garden of Eden is spoken of as being the most prudent of all the beasts of the field that God made. And it is this beast that is referred to here. In other words, we need to be as wise as Satan himself. We have to be as wise as anything in this creation is, and yet we have to be as innocent as a dove.
The dove of course, represents the Holy Spirit Himself. We have to be holy in our wisdom and without guile. We may not be as wise as serpents in the sense of having deceit, or having a conniving mind of some kind. Our wisdom has to be straight prudence, straight wisdom.
It is especially important to understand that under no circumstances would the Bible teach us that we are to study about Satan in order to emulate him. God tells us through the Apostle Paul in 1st Corinthians 14:20 to be, “babes in evil”. The less we know about wickedness, the better it is.
We can know about serpents, however, if we consider in the third chapter of Genesis where it speaks about the fall of Adam, the serpent was the most wise, the most prudent, which is actually the word that is used there, of all the beasts, and this is in a wicked sense. The KJV translates the word as “Subtil”, and other translations use the word “cunning”.
Our prudence therefore, must be of the godly kind. We are to be exemplary in our wisdom, in other words.
It will help us to understand this if we consider the parable of the dishonest steward in Luke 16. The dishonest steward in this parable is a very sinful man, and yet he is very wise in his own generation, that is, in his generation of evil. And the conclusion of the Lord Jesus, is in verses 8 and 9.
“And the Lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely (prudently): for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.”
In other words, God here is using an example of someone who is wicked, and who has a deep concern for the future, and makes provision for the future, and likewise He wants believers to have concern for the future, by being wise.