A ‘wolf in sheep’s clothing’ is a very common expression, used to denote someone who comes into the flock to destroy it; that is, it describes an enemy who uses deception and cunning to feign friendship, when the real purpose is to bring trouble and ruin.
Like so many popular expressions today, this one goes back to the Bible. In this case it was Jesus who spoke these words. Aesop had earlier made use of this image in one of his fables, but Jesus used the phrase to speak of those who would claim to come in and look after God’s people, when instead they came to destroy them.
The actual verse, Matthew 7:15, says this: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” The immediate context is Matt. 7:13-23 in which Jesus warns against deception and religious frauds. As he says in verse 21: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.”
There are many other similar warnings found in the New Testament. As but one example, Paul admonished the Ephesian elders with these words, “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock” (Acts 20:28-29).
I have documented cases of wolves in sheep’s clothing elsewhere on this site. Many individuals come to mind. And sometimes whole denominations seem to fit the description. The Episcopalian Church in America seems in many ways to serve as a prime example as the sort of thing Jesus and the apostles warned against.
Let me mention just one example (of many). I was recently informed of a certain Rev. Katherine Hancock Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest who seems quite representative of her denomination. Her website features sermons on “gay pride” and all the usual trendy topics this ultra-liberal denomination is into.
It seems that last year she delivered a sermon on the “blessings of abortion”. Yes you heard me right. This religious leader told her congregation that abortion is a great blessing from God and we must continue to work for abortion.
Her “sermon” (if you want to call it that – it is more of a feminist pro-death activist speech) is entitled, “Our Work Is Not Done”. There are a number of incredible features to be noted about this anti-life tirade. The first, and perhaps most important, is the way she uses Scripture.
And the way she uses it is by not using it at all! There is not one biblical passage mentioned in her entire sermon. Not one! Of course this makes perfect sense when we consider an apostate denomination like the Episcopalian.
While there are plenty of pro-life passages to be found in the Bible, there are no pro-abortion passages to be found anywhere in Scripture. No wonder her talk is Scripture-free. But there is another reason for this. It has often been noted that liberal churches are much more likely to use as their preaching text the most recent editorial from The New York Times than to actually use a biblical text.
So this is all par for the course here. She simply picks a trendy lefty social issue and pontificates on that for half an hour. Indeed, while the word “God” is mentioned a few times (clearly stripped of all biblical content), Jesus is never mentioned in this talk.
So she is seeking to feed her congregation by pushing radical social issues, and never once referring to the man from whom Christianity gets its name. But no self-respecting wolf would want to spend much time talking about the man from Galilee anyway. Instead they will ramble on about the latest trendy leftwing cause. (And if they do refer to Jesus, it is to turn him into a revolutionary leftist political activist.)
Let me cite a few choice paragraphs from her pro-death sermon. Consider this one: “Let me tell you something. Any argument that puts men alone at the center – for good or for bad – any discussion of women’s reproductive health that ends up being all about men, is not feminism. Nor, for that matter, is it Christian, or reflective of any God I recognize. And as long as anyone can even imagine such an argument, our work is not done.”
Note several things here. First, she clearly puts her feminism before her Christianity. Yes, we have gathered as much already. For her, Christianity is simply the bondservant to whatever trendy social activism she is spouting at the moment.
And then she of course creates a straw man. Who is putting men first here? The issue is human life, and the right of unborn babies to exist. And given that half of all the aborted babies are male, why shouldn’t men have a voice in all this anyway?
Here is another gem: “When a woman wants a child but can’t afford one because she hasn’t the education necessary for a sustainable job, or access to health care, or day care, or adequate food, it is the abysmal priorities of our nation, the lack of social supports, the absence of justice that are the tragedies; the abortion is a blessing.”
This is just another bit of pro-abortion propaganda. As if poor economic conditions justify killing another human being. The truth is, there are all sorts of people who are poor and ill – does that mean they can bump off other family members with impunity? Just think of how much better we could do financially if we killed grandpa, or snuffed out that teenage son who eats so much.
Or consider her remarks about civil disobedience: “Let me say a bit more about that, because the religious community has long been an advocate of taking principled stands of conscience – even when such stands require civil disobedience. We’ve supported conscientious objectors, the Underground Railroad, freedom riders, sanctuary seekers, and anti-apartheid protestors. We support people who put their freedom and safety at risk for principles they believe in.”
This is more incredible waffle. And how dare she use the Underground Railroad as an example. This of course refers to the network of people who helped slaves escape to the free north in America in the nineteenth century. But there is no better analogy to the plight of the unborn than that of slaves. In both case, the individual in question is considered to be a second-class citizen, the property of another, to do with as the owner pleases. The slave master treats the slave as a non-person, and the pro-abortionist treats the unborn baby as a non-person as well.
She finishes her “sermon” with these words: “These are the two things I want you, please, to remember – abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Let me hear you say it: abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. Abortion is a blessing and our work is not done. I want to thank all of you who protect this blessing – who do this work every day: the health care providers, doctors, nurses, technicians, receptionists, who put your lives on the line to care for others (you are heroes – in my eyes, you are saints); the escorts and the activists; the lobbyists and the clinic defenders; all of you. You’re engaged in holy work.”
It does not get much more incredible than this: now abortionists are saints! Those who make big profits by cutting babies to pieces or burning them to death with saline solutions are saints! And bear in mind that in biblical terminology a saint is someone who is set apart for God, a holy person, sanctified for God’s work.
So our “Christian” wolf is telling us that the baby killers are holy, sanctified and set about for God’s special work. I am flabbergasted. I really don’t know what to say.
No wonder Jesus reserved his harshest and sternest words for those who would twist God’s word and lead people astray. He warned that it would be better for such people to have a large slab of concrete hung around their necks and be thrown into the sea (eg., Luke 17:1-3).
Jesus took this kind of deception and betrayal very seriously indeed and so should we. If we wonder why the church is in such a miserable condition, it is because we have allowed denominations and individuals like this to become the very thing Jesus warned against. There are far too many wolves in the flock, and some housecleaning is long overdue.