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How do we identify a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”?

The origin of the saying “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” goes back to Aesop’s Fables (620-560 BC) where a wolf disguised his appearance in order to gain the trust of sheep so that he could more easily secure one of them as food. This fable was well known in Jesus’ day. That is probably why Jesus alluded to it in his sermon on the mount regarding false prophets that would infiltrate the infant Church. 

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (Matthew 7:15) Obviously this statement has an application today as we observe many “false prophets” (ministers) on the Internet and on TV, whose aim is not to bring heavenly treasure to the flock, but to rob them of earthly good. 

Today the term “a wolf in sheep’s clothing” has also become a common metaphor for any hidden danger, or for any enemy putting on a false display of friendship when he or she is really up to no good. How does one identify such a person, especially if that person claims to be a Christian?

Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:16). The “fruit” is the fruit of the Spirit.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. . . Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-23) 

It will soon become evident that a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” will not be demonstrating the above fruits by his or her actions. Instead he or she may be exhibiting some of the following behaviors. “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Galatians 5:19-21) 

Once the “wolf” is identified by his or her actions, how does a Christian deal with such a person, especially if that person claims to be a Christian? The Apostle Paul tells us, “You must not associate with anyone who calls himself [herself] a brother [sister] who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or a slanderer, a drunkard or a swindler. With such a man [woman] do not even eat.” (1 Corinthians 5:11)

How does the Christian identify a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”? The Christian man or woman can identify the “wolf” by his or her actions. How does a Christian deal with the “wolf”? The Christian should keep contact to a minimum and not socialize with that person. However, before that conclusion is reached, the Christian must be very cautious in the judgment process by using his or her spiritual mind of justice, properly tempered with love and mercy.