Missionary Chapter: Be as Shrewd as Snakes and as Innocent as Doves (Matthew 10:9-16)

January 19, 2014

Book: Matthew

Missionary Chapter: Be as Shrewd as Snakes and as Innocent as Doves (Matthew 10:9-16)
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Scripture: Matthew 10:9-16


Sermon Notes

9 Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts; 10 take no bag for the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for the worker is worth his keep. 11 “Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave. 12 As you enter the home, give it your greeting. 13 If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you. 14 If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. 15 I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town. 16 I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 

May God bless all of us with this word of our Lord and King, Jesus Christ.

Matt 10 = Missionary Chapter (Christian worker’s Manual) 

Before he sent the apostles out to evangelize, he preached, encouraged, prepared them. In this sermon, he has something to say to ALL missionaries: Past, Present, and Future. To make light of the King’s voice is to be in danger at the end time.

Last time we saw:

  1. Who are the missionaries
  2. Who is the Lord of the Harvest
  3. What is their message
  4. Who is their audience

Today, we see HOW they are to go and evangelize.

No gold, no silver, no copper, no bag, no extra clothes, no sandals, no staff.

This seems contrary to normal travel plans. Most people would probably take money and extra clothes when they travel – as well as extra sandals and a staff for long walking. All of these seem very essential in travel. But Jesus forbade them from taking any of these essentials. 

He sent them in pairs, 2-by-2 expecting them to return SOON with a full report. We don’t know how long this campaign lasted, but this was a TRAINING mission. They had to move quickly, taking minimal supplies.  

What can we learn from this today, spiritually? 

3 Things for Today:

#1: We must understand the urgency of the mission task.

The imminence of the mission task. Paul, “When I preach, I must not boast. This is my mission, my goal, my life – if I do NOT preach, cursed am I.”

Many Christians today say, “Of course, I WANT to preach the gospel…later…when I’m (smarter/ready/wiser/older/finished with this problem/etc).”

NO. If you are not a NOW-Christian worker, then you are not a TRUE-Christian worker.

#2: We must understand the simplicity of a Christian-worker’s lifestyle.

If we are the ambassador’s of Christ, we can show his lifestyle by our lifestyles. We must show the simplicity of his lifestyle when we carry out our ministries without excessive worldliness. His first concern is God and Mission.

  • In Proverbs: “Give me neither poverty nor riches. Give me only my daily bread. Otherwise I might have too much and disown you and say ‘Who is the Lord?’ or I might have too light and steal and dishonor your name.”
  • Hebrews: “Therefore, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and let us run the race with perseverance that is marked out before us.” 

If we want to be Christian-workers, we must make our lives simple and light. Like athletes without too much equipment that weighs them down. And we must focus on what is really important.

#3: We must learn to trust and depend on God absolutely – in action, not just in mind.

  1. Phil. “God will meet all your needs through Christ.”
  2. Luke “Do not worry about what you will eat or what you will drink…Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.” 

Is God in your life? Then he must be FIRST. If not first, he’s not in your life.


Who is the worthy person? A person who received their message and invited them to stay in their house. 

If they find a worthy person, they should stay there until they leave that town. It was a matter of courtesy. If they begin staying in one house in one village and then move to another house the next day…(maybe they had better food/luxury/entertainment…) They shouldn’t move to THAT other house, but stay in the first house that welcomed them. Why? 

The messenger of Christ must never give the impression that he is a seeker of material convenience.

They should depend on God’s provision, not their own ability. Homestay was an excellent approach for an apostle’s short mission – it was not to be a permanent way of life for them. 

v. 12-13

Another way to approach: with Blessing.

If the house is worthy, give it your peace, if not, keep it. Greeting = blessing the house, the owner, the family, the community, the town. 

Evangelist = true peace-maker, true peace-blesser.

“Peace to you” = Shalom

Blessed are the Peace-makers for they will be called sons of God. (Matthew 5)

Long ago, he was called the Prince of Peace, the King of Peace, so Jesus Christ himself is our Peace. “Therefore since we have been justified by Christ through faith, we have peace with God…” Romans? 

Therefore, we HAVE peace with God, so we must bless as much as possible! Your peace will not return to you empty.

Isaiah “As the rain and snow comes from heaven and never returns to heaven. As the earth produces wheat and the wheat, bread for the eater. Likewise, my Word never returns empty – it will accomplish the purpose I have for it.”

Like this, God’s peace, when we give it, will never return to us empty.

Abraham was called out to a new nation when he was just a young husband. But God made him a great nation “I will bless those who bless you; I will curse those who curse you.”

This also means “I will bless those whom you bless; I will curse those whom you curse.”

The blessing you give to men will never return empty – even though they are not worthy – the blessing we bless will work on somebody and not return to us empty. Hallelujah! Please bless with peace as many as possible. That blessing never fails – it will work on somebody – maybe even yourself. 

v. 14

If they don’t welcome you, shake the dust off your feet. 

Shaking dust off their feet was very familiar to the Jews. The dust of the Gentile land was defiled. So, when the Jews crossed Palestine and entered his own country after a journey, he shook his feet of the dust so that the last particle of pollution might be shaken away.

This instruction has 2 truths: Temporary, Permanent

  • Temporary: Jesus was not saying certain people had to be permanently abandoned from salvation. This needs to be understood by the opening sentence of Jesus “Do not go to the Gentiles, go to the lost sheep of Israel.” (Refusal of the message was like Gentiles – they had to move quickly and efficiently – they had no time to talk with stubborn refusals of their message – that would come later.)
  • Permanent: This is one of the great basic facts of life. We know, again and again, time and opportunity come to a man, but time does not come back.

Proverbs: 3 things do not come back.

  1. Spoken word
  2. Flown arrow
  3. Lost opportunity

Please remember, now is the opportunity.

Past has passed. Future is uncertain. The present is a gift – a present opportunity. 

As long as we preach the gospel, we are not responsible when the listeners refuse our message. But we DO have a responsibility to DO it – to preach it. We have a VIP position in this world as Christian workers, ambassadors of Christ. How important? More than Obama, Park Geun-Hye, President. 

v. 15 HOW important?

With emphasis: I TELL YOU THE TRUTH, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on JUDGMENT day than for that town. 

Sodom and Gomorrah = in the Old Testament (Genesis – same time as Abraham/Lot) – they were destroyed by fire from heaven. They rejected the messengers (angels) from heaven. But they never had the opportunity to reject the gospel of Christ. 

The greater the opportunity, the greater the responsibility. 

That’s why it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah. This is a lesson to us: God’s destruction and the permanence of that destruction. 

Those who reject the message of the gospel will receive THIS same spiritual, eternal, destruction.

v. 16 The model of the message

Sheep among wolves. We must go to the wolves – hallelujah – God will be with you.

Double attitudes we must have (two sides to one coin):

  1. Shrewd as snakes
  2. Innocent as doves

Our mission field is not in the church, but in the world. Missionaries are Christian workers among the lost, not among the saved.

Shrewd = wise, clever, prudent

Why snakes? Do you like snakes? 

When I was younger, I always approached snakes first at the zoo.

At that time in history, there was no place that snakes could not approach quietly yet powerfully.

  • God is a God of peace, and yet wrath.
  • Jesus is a full Man, and yet fully God.

This is a model for all evangelism. If we are ambassadors of Christ in this world, we must identify with those we serve. We must go among them, inside their groups, identify with them. Are you like them? Can you approach quietly yet powerfully like snakes? 

  • Yet we must also be totally different from them.
  • We must identify with them, yet not lose our own identity as we are in Christ.

Paul “I have been crucified with Christ, I no longer live…Yet even though I’m free, I belong to nobody, yet I make myself like a slave to everybody. I became weak to save the weak, I became strong to win the strong. I became like the Gentile to win the Gentile. I became like the Jew to save the Jew. I have become all things so that I might win as many as possible.”

One final sentence:

We must be faithful to the Word to save ourselves. We must be flexible to the World to save others. 

Let’s pray.