Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
Matthew 10:16 KJV

I've always known Serpent as evil and negative. Jesus tells us to be as wise as Serpent. What are the characteristics of Serpent? What makes a Serpent wise?

  • See Genesis 3:1. Serpents and cats lie in wait on their prey, so their hunting method is relatively clever or elegant, as opposed to say, that of canines, which hunt it down, thereby inadvertently wearing themselves off in the process.
    – Lucian
    Oct 29 '19 at 11:58

The word "wisdom" is synonymous with "intelligence". By definition, intelligence is the ability to apply knowledge to manipulate one's environment or to think abstractly as measured by objective criteria (such as tests) - (https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/intelligence).

In Genesis 3:1, the serpent is described as "more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made". Therefore, the serpent was able to apply knowledge to manipulate his environment and ultimately manipulate Eve to eat from the tree.

In this sense, we can say the serpent was wise/intelligent and in Matthew 10:16 Jesus was encouraging His disciples to be just as wise. you have to understand your enemy in order to best them.


Here is another instance of Jesus teaching us to be shrewd, like the dishonest manager :

Luke 16:8 NASB "And his master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the sons of this age are more shrewd in relation to their own kind than the sons of light.

The point is that we are not of this world but we are in this world. We should expect to be the target of sharp practice, because that is the way of the world, but we should not let it affect our ministry.

In the case of the shrewd manager, he was au courant, aware of his future dilemma and made arrangements to tackle it. Christians should be aware that they will be hearing God's voice, and should not be like Ananias and Sapphira:

Hebrews 4:7 NASB God again designated a certain day as "Today," when a long time later He spoke through David as was just stated: "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts."

Of course, you should ensure you are under the proper Covenant, which most Christians unfortunately are not.

Due diligence, people.


I am expanding on what Shepherd quite rightly wrote, namely that Matt. 10:16 needs to be seen in the light of Gen. 3:1. Matt. 10:16 says that the disciples should be “wise as serpents” (φρονιμοι ως οι οφεις). The Greek version (Septuagint) of Gen. 3:1 states that “the serpent was wisest of all the animals” (ὁ δὲ ὄφις ἦν φρονιμώτατος πάντων τῶν θηρίων); the KJV, following the Hebrew version, has: “the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field”. Both passages use forms of the same Greek word: φρονιμος (“wise”) and φρονιμώτατος (“wisest”). There is thus as exact verbal agreement between the two passages.

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