Did you know it is wise to think like the devil? While we all would prefer to be innocent and not have a clue how bad people think, Jesus said,
Behold, I send you out as sheep among wolves.
Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.
(Luke 10:16, NKJ)
So, what does it mean to be wise as a serpent and as harmless as a dove?
Lost innocence means serpent wisdom
When we speak of innocence, we usually mean ignorance. Children are fortunate if they can grow up ignorant of this sinful world. Parents have the opportunity to keep them safe and shielded from sin for as long as possible. Since society works hard to expose them younger and younger, though, keeping them ignorant of the devil’s ways will only work so long. Eventually, they will have a knowledge of good and evil.
I remember my daughter losing her innocence about human cruelty when she first heard the story of the Nebuchadnezzar throwing the three Hebrew children into the fiery furnace. She cried and said, “I can’t believe anyone would be so mean!” My heart sunk. I thought of all the stuff she did not know yet in this wicked world. I wished she would never have to find out.
However, you cannot charm the snake. Our government has filled jails and prisons while trying to take the serpent. Charming the snake will not work. We have to adopt a whole new nature. Satan is the uncharming serpent of Scripture. The dove is the Spirit of God who dwells in His people.
What it means to be wise as a serpent
The Lord tells us to be aware of the ways of the snake. In the Garden of Eden, Eve and Adam followed the influence of the serpent and desired to be worldly wise. Now, we have no choice but to know the way of the serpent. Jesus told us to be “wise as serpents.” We should not seek out knowledge of sin, but He does want us aware of the enemy’s ways. In other words, you do not have to be a criminal to be a police officer, but it helps to understand the criminal mind.
In the same breath, the Lord commands us to be “harmless as doves.” Too many people get this backwards. They are as dumb as doves and as harmful as snakes! They bite and inject venom on everyone with their crude jokes, profanity, and godless philosophy.
We need to be aware of the dangers of evil. Yet at the same time, we cannot adopt the slither and sting of the evil one. For a child, this means adjusting to the fact that some people are out to kill you or kidnap you. This should not distort how you view life. Smile and be polite to people you do not know, but refuse to get in the car with a stranger. For adults, this means love your neighbor, but build a fence anyway.
What it means to be harmless as a dove
The lost innocence of sexual sins damage a person the worst. One exposure to pornography can permanently twist a young man’s mind about who he is and what women are. Adultery, homosexuality, free sex, and other moral poisons will ruin a person if he or she leaves the venom in.
Murder and war also destroy a person’s morale and morals. Many Vietnam vets still see life through the lens of the brutality they witnessed. Only God can heal these hurts so one does not live in the sting of shame or recoil to bite others in self-defense.
As a parent, one of the most important things to do is help your children deal quickly and harmlessly with “snake-bite” moments in life. The first time they hear someone cuss or talk crudely about sex, parents should steer them to a right perspective with “dove” love. Better yet, make sure they are not around these kinds of situations at all (homeschool provides such a buffer zone). Do not leave them vulnerable to the serpent without showing them the safety of the dove. Teach them to fly away from the hazards of sin.
The movies and music of the serpent intentionally destroy our morals. We should not listen to or watch violence and pornography (Isaiah 33:15). We should be like babies about getting angry—get over it quickly and not hurt anyone (I Corinthians 14:20). Doves raise doves. Snakes raise snakes. What you are as a parent will appear in your children.
Dirty Bible stories
You cannot teach the whole Word of God to your kids without them being exposed to the ways of the snake. You will read about rape, murder, incest, torture, adultery, deceit, and much more. Many times I want to go into denial that such dirty Bible stories exist. At times, I have even skipped them when reading the Word with my children—especially the young ones. Fortunately, the Scriptures show us the consequences of sin and we need to emphasize these things.
The life of Christ and many other godly men and women in Scripture illustrate how to live harmless as a dove. If being innocent means not knowing about evil, then Jesus was not innocent. However, He is the Righteous Innocent who overcame the horrors of sin. The prophet Daniel maintained his innocence (Daniel 6:22). Great men and women of God saw all kinds of evil yet still lived to make the world more dove-like.
Innocence is not the ignorance of sin, but the untainted joy of not being guilty of it. You already know more than you want to, but you can live pure and free in Christ by walking in the Spirit.