Have you ever heard the expression “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”? I thought it originally came from one of my favorite cartoons growing up called Ralph Wolf and Sam Sheepdog. In case you missed it, it is about a wolf who is a perpetual failure at disguising himself as a sheep in order to sneak past the sheepdog and grab a quick bite o’mutton.
But the phrase actually originated with Jesus 2000 years ago in a sermon where He warns us about folks who would attempt to deceptively infiltrate the ranks of Christ followers:
“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves” (Matthew 7:14).
What a concept—right? What if a wolf actually had the brains to sew together a sheep sweater and get in the flock for his next meal?
And that’s pretty much what happens in the most recent installment in The Year of Christian Movies called Believe Me. Four college dudes embark on a journey to fleece the Christian flock for cash to help pay a tuition bill. They are truly wolves in sheep’s clothing, and I must say that I learned some things from the film that can help us spot a conniving canine when they look to rip us off.
For one, wolves are Biblically illiterate. They may know the culture and the patterns and the catchphrases of all things Christianese, but when it comes to knowing and accurately teaching the Word of God, their receiver is definitely off the hook. Here’s the warning that Paul gives regarding them:
One final word of counsel, friends. Keep a sharp eye out for those who take bits and pieces of the teaching that you learned and then use them to make trouble. Give these people a wide berth. They have no intention of living for our Master Christ. They’re only in this for what they can get out of it, and aren’t above using pious sweet talk to dupe unsuspecting innocents (Romans 16:17-18, MSG).
Just because someone sets himself or herself up as a “Christian,” or even as a leader or pastor, doesn’t mean that they aren’t wolves in sheep’s clothing. They might be smooth operators or slick talkers, but you will know that they are leading you astray if they aren’t being faithful to what the Bible teaches.
And of course the only way you will know if they are the real deal is if you know the Bible yourself! The first sheep to go are the ones who trusted the wolf in sheep’s clothing when they shouldn’t have. Because they were Biblically illiterate, as well.
I also learned that you can tell a wolf by his/her actions over time. This is the advice Jesus gave in the same passage:
Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned (Matthew 7:16-20, MSG).
If you suspect you have a wolf in your flock, watch his/her daily interactions with people closely. Do they lead people closer to Jesus, or turn them away? Do they reflect the gospel, or are they just trying to gain money or popularity?
Believe Me is an interesting look at how much of the culture looks at us Christians— our quirks and oddities—and yes, perhaps even our gullibility sometimes when we believe we are serving the Lord. But rather than walking away from this film trying to “fix” what is often ridiculed, perhaps we should just “fix” our eyes on Jesus! He is the Shepherd of our souls, and when we walk with Him closely, and dedicate ourselves to THE Cause instead of the culture, we will know a wolf when we see one.
At the end of the day, what matters the most is not if we keep the wolves from stealing our money. The critical issue here is that these pretenders distort the message that salvation is a free gift from God through Jesus Christ. Let’s join together in this effort to stop the infiltrators by knowing God’s Word and asking God for wisdom and discernment. There may be college guys ripping people off for their money, but believe me, there are wolves in sheep’s clothing stealing the souls of our friends!
Flashpoint: Ignite Into Action
Right now as you are reading this, I would bet there are a few wolves prowling nearby—maybe even in your church or youth group. Don’t be lead astray! Pray for them, and help all those around you find the true Shepherd of their souls!
Accelerant: Fuel for THE Cause
Pray: Jesus, You are the Good Shepherd and You have warned us about the wolves in sheep’s clothing. Help us be wise and discerning so we can further Your Cause and the message of the gospel.
Read: John 10:10. The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.
Get: You’re Next…Outrageous Stories From My Life That Could Change Yours. Humor, violence, and life collide with God and His love, as author Greg Stier uses real-life, outrageous stories from his crazy younger years to communicate 30 core truths of the Christian faith. You’re Next will give you a rock solid theology to build your faith on—delivered in an engaging, approachable way. Pick up a copy today!
Discussion Guide for Leaders
Big Idea: Believe Me is a movie that teaches us about what wolves in sheep’s clothing are like. We must be vigilant and stop them from ripping off our money and worse—the good news of the gospel.
Key Scripture: Matthew 7:14
- Have you ever been around a wolf in sheep’s clothing? What happened?
- What can help you identify them better?
- What do your actions say about your commitment to Jesus?
- How can you apply this Soul Fuel to THE Cause?