Be wise as serpents – by Pastor Jay

(Summary of the sermon: 07 Feb 2016)


John 4:1-40 narrates the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. One day, Jesus and His disciples set out to Galilee. John 4:4 says that Jesus NEEDED to go through Samaria. Now, even though Samaria and Judea were neighbors, their relationship was frosty. Jews avoided setting foot in Samaria. But on that day, Jesus and His disciples went right through Samaria. Tired by the journey, Jesus sat by a well and sent His disciples in search of food. After a while, a woman came by to draw water from the well. Jesus struck a conversation with her asking for water. Thus began one of the most engaging conversations that we have probably seen. Jesus tells her about the Living water (Himself) and even reveals that He is the Messiah. Astonished, she ran to tell her townspeople about the Savior that she met at the well. Many of them believed in Him while many didn’t. So Jesus stayed for another two days in Samaria and revealed Himself as the Messiah to the others!

With this incident in the background, let us learn about an interesting attitude that Jesus asks us to embrace.


Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.  But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues.  You will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles.  But when they deliver you up, do not worry about how or what you should speak. For it will be given to you in that hour what you should speak; for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks in you.

Mathew 10:16-20

We Christians are called to be gentle like lambs. However, in order to protect ourselves from the attack of wolves, we are instructed to be wise as serpents. Snakes are generally not considered to be affable creatures but there certainly are things that we can learn from them. After all, they are God’s creation! With the story of the Samaritan woman as the context, let us learn how we can be wise as serpents.


A serpent changes according to its environment. We must be willing to adapt ourselves to our situations without compromising our holiness, and integrity. 1 Corinthians 9:22 says, I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some’. Like Jesus who went to Samaria and engaged with the Samaritan woman, we must also be willing to conduct ourselves with people around us for the sake of the Gospel.

Once, a preacher ministered at our church. He later pointed out to us that often we address our church family members as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’. But like he rightly pointed out, it may not be the popular usage in the culture that we live in, and they might find it confusing. So we need to be careful about how we speak and behave.


We must know for certain what we are up against. Our lives are often engaged in spiritual warfare and we need to prepare well for every battle.

In 2003, God led my wife Anjali and me to quit our jobs and get involved in His ministry on a full time basis. So before committing to anything, we spent days and weeks praying and asking God for specific direction. Finally, God challenged us to start an English church in Tambaram. At that time, it didn’t seem like a grand idea because there weren’t many English speaking people in this neighborhood. But God asked us to fill in the gaps and we obeyed Him. Today, he has built His Church to this stage.

Hosea 7 says that ‘Ephraim compromised and he is a half baked cake. Foreigners have consumed his bread and he hasn’t noticed or realized’. When we do not understand God’s calling, we will be very poorly prepared for the challenges facing us.

In the book of Acts we read about how Paul walked around the city of Athens and noticed an altar to ‘an unknown God’. He picked that point and used it effectively in his sermon to Athens by telling them that the unknown God they were worshipping is actually Jesus Christ. Therefore, preparation is very essential.

Recently, one of our members led a session during the 21 days prayer organized by the church. On one of those days, she attended a job interview. She had prepared well. At the interview, to her surprise, the interviewer happened to be another church member who had seen her in church the previous day! Needless to say, God granted her favor before them and she was able to get the job. God honored her heart that was dedicated to Him and that was prepared to work hard.


A serpent can enter through even the tiniest of holes. God wants us to be faithful over the tiny, little things in our lives before He brings bigger opportunities our way.

Jesus asked for a small glass of water from the woman at the well. That request opened the door for an opportunity to engage with her about the Gospel. Let us look around carefully at the opportunities that God gives us.


Jesus entered the land of Samaria asking for just some water to drink, but by the time He left, the whole area had heard about the Messiah. The Bible says in Acts that even King Agrippa told Paul that if he kept speaking then he would convince him to be a Christian! Despite the threat of persecution, we must be willing to present the Gospel at all times wisely.


James 3:13-15 say, Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.  But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic’. Our circles of influence might be in our colleges, jobs or schools. Irrespective of where we have been placed, we must apply Godly wisdom in engaging with people. Let us stay far away from earthly wisdom, which leaves us in wretchedness; instead let our lives be modeled after God’s peace giving wisdom.

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