Craftiness (cunning)



Some brothers say that we must be crafty as serpents. Is that true? Not at all, because Jesus did not tell His disciples to be crafty as serpents but He told them to be “wise as serpents” (Matthew 10:16), which is a very different thing, for to be wise means to be prudent, wary and shrewd and not to be crafty.

To explain to you what it means to be crafty I am going to quote some Scriptures.

● Matthew says: “Then went the Pharisees, and took counsel how they might entangle him in his talk. And they sent out unto him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, Master, we know that thou art true, and teachest the way of God in truth, neither carest thou for any man: for thou regardest not the person of men. Tell us therefore, What thinkest thou? Is it lawful to give tribute unto Caesar, or not? But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?” (Matthew 22:15-18. The IBRV reads ‘ma Gesù, conosciuta la loro malizia, disse ….’ that is, “but Jesus, having perceived their cunning, said …”, and Luke 20:23 says: “But he perceived their craftiness, and said unto them, Why tempt ye me?”). As you can see, the Pharisees acted cunningly with Jesus in order to cause Him to sin. They were crafty people, for Jesus called them ‘serpents, brood of vipers’, therefore on that occasion they showed the craftiness of the old serpent, who was their father. But you, brethren, are not vipers but sheep, and you must not be crafty, but wise as serpents (which are prudent animals for when they hear a rustle they move because they perceive a danger) lest you fall into the snare of the devil. Therefore you must imitate the wisdom of the serpents and not their craftiness because craftiness is of the devil, as it is written that he “deceived Eve by his craftiness” (2 Corinthians 11:3 – NKJV).

● Stephen said that Pharaoh “dealt subtilly with our kindred, and evil entreated our fathers, so that they cast out their young children, to the end they might not live” (Acts 7:19). The IBRV reads: ‘Costui, procedendo con astuzia contro la nostra stirpe, trattò male I nostri padri’ that is, ‘he, dealing cunningly with our kindred, evil entreated our fathers ….”. As you can see, Pharaoh did not act honestly toward the Israelites but he acted cunningly.

Know this, that wisdom says that “a crafty man is hated” (Proverbs 14:17 – NIV), and in fact people hate crafty persons, and God also hate crafty persons, as it is written: “The Lord condemns a crafty man” (Proverbs 12:2 - NIV). And know also that God shows Himself shrewd to the crooked (2 Samuel 22:27). Do not be crafty, brothers, because God will return your craftiness on your own heads, for it is written in the Psalms: “Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood. He made a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief shall return upon his own head, and his violent dealing shall come down upon his own pate” (Psalm 7:14-16).

Imitate Paul and Timothy, who never acted cunningly with the saints, so they could say to the Corinthians: “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God” (2 Corinthians 4:1-2).

Those who conduct themselves honestly and sincerely toward their neighbour will have a sure and great reward; of course, such a conduct costs them because they need to make many sacrifices, but such a conduct gives them much peace and joy and enables them to keep a pure conscience.