“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” This line from Matthew 7:15 warns us about a wolf in sheep’s clothing or someone who may look harmless from the outside but actually have bad intentions on the inside.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits”(Matthew 7:15-20).
According to the Book of Matthew, these people are false teachers who often have a bad agenda that may look like a good agenda. They are deceitful, hateful, and they often twist plots of truth for their own selfish gain.
Who are these people and how do we know if they are a wolf in sheep’s clothing? Here are four examples of such a person with some examples on how to deal with them every time we encounter such a character.
1. They Love Power and Use it to Get What They Want
Often, a person who is a wolf with sheep’s clothing is someone who loves to be in power. They will always try their best to be in power by whatever means possible. To attain more power, they will use their current role to enact it.
Just as the illustration depicts, their ways may seem like they don’t want to be in power — feigning humility. So, they use the act of cognitive dissonance to achieve power gain.
People who experience dealings with a person like this will often get confused as to why this person seems like they do not want it yet can feel the disingenuousness of it.
That is because a person with a sheep’s clothing look may seem very confusing at first. It is not easy to spot them or their nature.
Peter warns us of this nature in 1 Peter 5:8, “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” We must be alert when someone is trying to confuse us and others with their love for power.
2. They Love Themselves and Do Not Think of Others
Another character of a wolf in sheep’s clothing is that they love themselves and think only of what will benefit them. They often disguise such focus by acting as if they are helping another person, but it is still for their gain or self-inflated ego.
They want people to see them as angels helping and looking after their friends and families. However, at the back of their family and friends’ back is a different story, putting themselves further from everyone.
Scripture warns us about this in James 2:19, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that — and shudder.” Wolves in sheep’s clothing may believe in God and even know his name, but James says that is no indication of faith, for even the demons believe.
The only way for us to have the wisdom to decipher the true bad intentions behind the sheep’s clothing is to pray and seek wisdom and guidance from God.
3. They Manipulate the Situation and Others
Wolves in sheep’s clothing are often emotionally abusive to their friends, loved ones, and families. This is called gaslighting. It is abuse that manipulates a person into thinking that their understanding of a situation, thoughts, and memories are questionable and vague, and, therefore, untrue.
It makes the abused feel very confused about the situation and in the end, the abuser wins by making the abused feel wrong and unvalidated about what they are feeling.
This is the wolf’s ultimate mastery of manipulation. They can twist the situation for their benefit by making others feel confused and unworthy.
Paul’s letter to the Corinthians reminds us to be wary and on guard, “Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong” (1 Corinthians 16:13). It is a comforting reminder to be strong and courageous in the Lord so the wolves cannot get past.
When we feel that we know someone, especially in a leadership capacity, who has this kind of personality, it is important that we be on guard to not let it continue.
4. They Refuse to be Corrected and Use Emotions When Corrected
People with sheep’s clothing who are really wolves are those who do not want to be corrected. They use guilt and shame to pin the blame back on the person who first issued the correction.
It is a tricky scenario because they call into question the validity of the accuser with surprising skill.
How do we refute a person of this nature? We go back to the fruits of the spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.”
We use love, gentleness, and self-control when dealing with them because it is what we are called to do. Even when preventative action needs to be taken.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:43-48).
However, let us not be deceived by their crying and heightened emotions when they get corrected, rather, let us have the wisdom to do the right thing when we encounter such a situation.
A wolf in sheep’s clothing has been mentioned in the Bible many times and we have been warned about them. In Scripture, they were false prophets preaching as if they have good intentions but were intending to provide confusion to the people.
In modern times, they can be anyone in a place of power to manipulate and even abuse. It is important to return to Matthew 7:16, “By their fruit, you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” So that we may know how to detect if a wolf is in sheep’s clothing.
Here are 15 Bible Verses Every Christian Should Know By Heart for you to download or share with loved ones!
For further reading:
What Is a “Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?”
What Is Gaslighting? Understanding the Warning Signs and Way of Escape
What Does the Bible Warn about False Prophets?
What Are the Fruits of the Spirit?
What Does it Mean to ‘Love Your Enemies’?
How Do We Pray for Those Who Hurt Us?
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Glory Dy has been a content creator for more than 10 years. She lives in a quiet suburb with her family and four cats.