I used to think a wolf in sheep’s clothing was a Satanist trying to infiltrate the church to turn people against God. Although I know it definitely includes them, I now realize a wolf in sheep’s clothing is anyone who professes to be a good thing and, in reality, is anything but good.
When I was a little girl, my Sunday school teacher tried to explain the concept of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I remember a flannelgraph board with all these neat little character cutouts. She took a wolf, put it on the board, and hid it under a sheep so that you could just barely see the wolf peeking through. She explained that some people come into the church pretending to love Jesus but, really, they’re there to cause problems, teach wrong things, and twist what the Bible says.
Matthew 7:15 says, “"Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” The word “prophets” in the Greek is “pseudoprophetes”, meaning “a spurious prophet, pretended foreteller, or religious imposter – false prophet”. The root word “pseudos” means “a falsehood, lie, lying.” I have come to discover in my own life experiences that the definition of a wolf in sheep’s clothing can be expanded to include people who pretend to be something they’re not, especially when they’re pretending to be a follower of Jesus or to have your best interests in mind but their outward actions and attitudes conflict with what they say. I have encountered this type of person within the church, and also in close relationships. The very next verse in Matthew 7 says that we’ll recognize this type of person by their fruit.
It’s sometimes hard to recognize an impostor because we don’t often give relationships time for the other person to bear any fruit and reveal their character before we have given them our trust and stamp of approval.
We also tend to make excuses for the behavior exhibited in hopes that we can change them or that they will eventually mature on their own. Failing to identify this person as a predator, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, is often a result of a poorly developed sense of discernment or lack of wisdom.
Mature wolves are excellent predators.
With developed senses, they are very adept at hunting their prey. They are extremely smart, crafty, sly, and perceptive. They will often hunt and kill without regard to hunger or need for food. By attacking and disabling the leg muscles, they leave creatures helpless and unable to move. With a sense of smell that is 100 times stronger than a human’s, they’re able to recognize, track, and wait for their target with great skill and patience.
Human “wolves” are able to recognize and prey off of weaknesses they identify in others. Wolves in the wild attack from behind, feed off the soft organs, and also disable the nose of their kill. Imposters follow the same trend by sneaking up from behind to hit their victims where it hurts the most, in the areas of life where they’re weakest and unable to defend themselves.
Forming a relationship with a wolf in sheep’s clothing and ignoring any initial red flags that pop up dulls the spiritual sense of smell – the discernment God gives His people for protection against enemies.
Although beautiful and alluring to look at, wolves are vicious, blood-thirsty enemies of animals such as deer. In Psalm 42:1 David compares the desperation of his soul in need of God to that of a deer panting for water. In nature, deer run for water when they’re thirsty and they also head to streams and rivers for safety. In the water, the predator loses their scent and can no longer track them. The same is true for God’s children: When we are washed in the water of the Word and hidden within Him, covered by His anointing, the enemy loses our scent and we are protected, as well as refreshed. Streams keep natural deer safe from physical wolves and the rivers of God’s presence keep us safe from spiritual ones.
The interesting thing about wolves in the wild is that they are extremely cowardly and fearful.
I have found in my own life the wolves in sheep’s clothing to be much the same way. In every wolf pack there is only one alpha male and one alpha female calling the shots for the rest of the wolves.
When a wolf in sheep’s clothing is encountered by a spiritual alpha male or alpha female – someone who knows how to use their God-given authority – they back down. It doesn’t take them long to realize this is a person who cannot easily be manipulated.
Manipulation is just one of the many tactics of a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Despite the professions they may make to be a God-fearing follower of Jesus or someone you can trust as your very best friend, their actions belie their proclamations. They may praise you to your face and be uttering obscenities against you when you’re not around. Using emotions as leverage, they demean, belittle, manipulate, and control their victims, all while claiming to be a friend or family member in Christ.
Sometimes the person may promise harm to their victim or even to themselves in the event that the victim tries to free him or herself from the grasp of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Other times they may threaten to end the relationship that has grown into a symbiotic dependency, causing the victim to feel as if s/he cannot function without the bullying of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Making an excuse for the behavior of the “wolf” only keeps the “wolf” empowered and doesn’t foster genuine change.
A sad truth I have found in my own life is that not everyone wants to change or be empowered by people who could help them mature and grow into their full potential. The weightiness of one’s words is only backed by their character and actions and, oftentimes, “talk is cheap” where a wolf in sheep’s clothing is concerned. They may promise friendship but can, in reality, be an enemy of your destiny.
I discovered an enemy to my own destiny in my close circle of friends.
It wasn’t that this person was evil or a Satanist by any means. This individual just consistently said one thing and did another. This person entertained a belief system that was in direct opposition to the calling of God on my life and therefore could not run the race with me in the direction I am headed because of a lack of desire to change and grow. I had to learn that it is okay – good, even – to walk away from relationships that were decades old when they turned from being mutually empowering, uplifting, and encouraging to draining and distracting.
Distraction is a huge tactic of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. One of their main goals is to keep people busy with meaningless and draining activities until they’re worn out enough to let down their guard and expose themselves to the impending attack. The victim initially enters into a relationship with the “wolf” unknowingly and feels that they have a genuine connection with and are truly helping the “wolf” in whatever area of feigned weakness they’ve been shown.
These are good people who fall prey to an agenda that is fueled by the fires of hell.
There are, of course, degrees of severity of the deception and damage done by the “wolf”. In the case of my former friend, the deception was that they claimed to support and believe in me when the truth was just the opposite. The damage was years of wasted time spent offering help to someone who did not want to reach the potential God has placed within them but instead focused on trying to discourage me from reaching my own.
Although it hurt to let that relationship come to an end, it was far from devastating. There are, however, attacks from wolves that utterly destroy people and the relationships they have with others in their lives. Entire families can be torn to shreds and left in ruins when the “wolf” is either exposed or has moved on to new victims. Truly, only the love of the Lord can bring reparation in those situations and bring revelation from the devastation.
One of the most profound revelations I have learned from my up-close-and-personal experiences with ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing is that there is only one recourse to an attack from a sheep-costume-wearing wolf – and it isn’t revenge. When a “wolf” comes in to steal from, kill, and destroy their victim, leaving them helpless and broken, there is only one proper response: forgiveness.
I think the greatest lesson I have ever learned in the area of forgiveness was not necessarily receiving forgiveness for my own stupidity and shortcomings but allowing the love of God to flow through me to forgive, release, and even genuinely love those who have caused immeasurable damage to my own loved ones. Although I knew the Bible told us to love, bless, do good to, and pray for our enemies in Matthew 5:44, it was took an entirely new level of faith, grace, and mercy to walk that out after years of watching my loved ones be abused by a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
The Lord spoke to me and commanded me to pray in the spirit and profess by faith forgiveness and love over the “wolf”. If anyone had a reason to hold a grudge against this individual, it was me. I initially argued, resisted, complained, and gave God every reason I could think of as to why that was not a good idea but He won the argument with a few simple, profound words: “I made this individual in My image and deposited a facet of Myself within them. To hate this person is to hate a part of Me. I love this person and, to love Me, is to love the one I love.”
There really isn’t much you can say to refute that, so, I gave in and did as He instructed.
It was one of the best decisions I ever made because, in forgiving this person, I liberated my own heart from bitterness, offense, and anger. Although the actions and character of the person have not changed, I can sincerely say that I have forgiven and I love this individual because of the love of God flowing through me to them.
If you are faced with a wolf in sheep’s clothing, seek God’s wisdom on how to get away from that unhealthy relationship. If you have been hurt by a “wolf”, then spend time seeking the Lord for His strength to flow toward and love to flow through you so that you can reach the place where you honestly forgive and release the offender. It may take more than one prayer, lots of tears, and proclaiming by faith something other than what your feelings are telling you.
When you choose to forgive, you will unshackle yourself from the bondage of the enemy and demonstrate the freedom of the Holy Spirit in your life. You may have been affected by a wolf in sheep’s clothing but you can close the door to further attacks and cauterize the wounds by allowing God to love and forgive through you. YOU are worthy of forgiving and have been designed in His likeness, to give forgiveness to those in need of it – even if the person is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.