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
In this verse, Jesus Christ cautions his followers against false teachers, false disciples, and the falsity and dangers of the world in general. For the Christian, the world is a field of dangers, especially because there are humans, demons, doctrines, philosophies that a Christian can fall prey to. To say that Christ says the world is full of predators is not to be too far wrong. And what is to be the Christian's response to this predatory situation?
A Christian can be suspicious, overly-suspicious, gullible, unaware, destructive, harmful, vengeful. But the response Christ calls for is that his followers be as shrewd and wise as serpents but nevertheless harmless.
One of the commercials in the Feb 3, 2013 American Super Bowl featured a Caucasian man speaking with a Jamaican accent. Although many Jamaican-Americans and the Jamaican Tourist Board found the commercial funny, there has been outcry from some pundits decrying the ad's supposed racism.
It is interesting that this debate about the ad's possible racism popped up during Black History Month. The controversy highlights an issue that is very common in African-American communities: Is some artwork, television show, movie, business, or conversation "racist" or not?
Having endured a four-hundred year history of subtle and not-so-subtle racism, Black Americans are well-acquainted with analyzing, questioning, highlighting, and dismissing hidden, trendy, or oblivious racism.
The Bible verse for today was a warning given by Jesus to his disciples: It is a verse that encourages Christians to have wisdom as they walk through the world. This powerful verse has other verses that balance it and which might be used to refute it, verses such as:
Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. -Romans 12:16
Trust in the LORD with all your heart; and lean not unto your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5
But these verses are not really talking about the same thing. These verses challenge man's tendency to self-reliance apart from the wisdom of God's Holy Spirit. Indeed, the Matthew 10:16 is more in the category of verses such as
And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, This is the way, walk you in it, when you turn to the right hand, and when you turn to the left. - Isaiah 30:21
And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. 1 Kings 19:12,13
or many verses in the Book of Proverbs which warn the reader against naive trust in certain kinds of sinners. such as
Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man thou shalt not go: Proverbs 22:24
The Bible does not warn against wisdom but against ignorance in friendships, and Scripture warns the believer always to be open to "red flags" such as a friend's bad temper and to be open to guidance from God about relationships and business partners. Because God sees and understands all, He will guide the believer. But the believer must be open to God's wisdom.
However, Christians are often taught to disregard "red flags" and often do not listen to the warning of the still small voice warning (or the voice in the back of our head) because they are taught to "see the best in their fellow man," "not assume or judge others" or "to give others the benefit of the doubt." Often, Christians believe that it is holier and "nicer" to give up their own agenda for that of another in order to be pleasing to God and often they do not want another person to feel uncomfortable.
African-Americans and Christians and all who wish to treat their neighbors fairly are often wary about the way they react to things. Whether an action or word done by another is a "red flag" warning precursor of future sinful behavior or not a red flag at all, it is necessary to react inwardly and outwardly.
African-Americans, the poor, Christians, and many minorities will often feel an inkling of racism, cruelty, or arrogance toward them. Such suspicions can poison us or not, and that is our choice. And our reactions can be destructive, whether we are being paranoid or not. It's important to be humble yet to value oneself.