“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.Matthew 10:16 NIV
I’m not sure just how shrewd snakes actually are. Or, for that matter, how innocent doves are. But I don’t think that is really important here. We think of snakes as being sneaky; hiding and slithering around in the grass. And doves as mild-mannered, harming no one. And that is the perception that this verse is using.
Being as shrewd as a snake is not telling us to be sneaky and deceptive. Quite the opposite. Keep your eyes open and be aware of what is going on around you. Know how to appropriately interact with others. Especially the wolves that want to do us harm. We should be aware of how they might attack us. And either avoid some situations or take thought for how to respond to them. Don’t end up like a deer in the headlights.
At the same time, we should be as innocent as doves. “Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us” (1 Pet. 2:12). My life needs to reflect the life of Christ to all that I come into contact with. Whether within the church, at work, with family and friends, or when alone. Seek to live a holy life (1 Pet. 1:15-16).