Detecting a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect Hidden Wolves

A wolf's head added onto a sheep's body.

Jesus calls us His sheep and our Good Shepherd has given us clear ways to recognize wolves in disguise. Even while pretending to be part of the Lord’s flock, this predator’s motives are quite different.

A wolf will always prey upon the sheep.

But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with fabricated stories… (2 Peter 2:1-3 NIV)

Because a wolf is always greedy and destructive toward the sheep, a beautiful outer fleece can’t hide the wolf’s true nature forever.

Let’s look at a place where wolves prowl.

The Prosperity Gospel-True or False?

The Prosperity Gospel is the idea that God’s whole goal for us is to be prosperous and happy in this life. Prosperity teachers use certain verses to imply that if you give money to God, He has to supernaturally increase your earthly wealth.

Set aside for a moment all the scriptural teachings against greed and allowing money to become an idol. (Mark 7:21-23, Luke 12:15, 1 Timothy 6:10 and Matthew 6:24).

To find out if this is a wolfish scheme, ask yourself one question.

Who benefits?

The Only One Who Benefits

If this teaching is true—that God is 100% obligated to increase your earthly wealth if you give generously to Him—there are thousands of Christian ministries you could mail a check to.  Giving to any Christian cause should trigger this worldly “financial blessing.”  Why not feed starving children in Africa? Or provide free surgery to poor people via the Mercy Ships? Or even help courageous believers smuggle Bibles to persecuted Christians? 

These are all worthy ministries to give to, but false teachers never suggest this option.

A wolf teaching the Prosperity Gospel will always prey on the sheep. So what ministry are the Christians under his care encouraged to give to? Only his.

The more the wolf stirs up his followers’ greed, the more money they will send in—to him.

Something Else a Wolf Will Never Do

A wolf will never encourage people to start reading their Bible every day. Why? Because it’s the most common way God speaks to us. The Holy Spirit starts opening our eyes to the lies we believe.

Instead the wolf, masquerading as a sheep, will spoon-feed his flock only a few key verses, complete with his own interpretation.

A Christian reading the gospels will start to hear words from Jesus like “sacrifice,” “be a servant” and “lay down your life for one another.”

Wolves who pretend to be sheep don’t preach this—unless their follower’s sacrifice helps them personally. They certainly don’t model this type of behavior for the sheep.

Disguised wolves take—they don’t give.

False teachers promise the sheep great wealth, but who’s actually receiving all the money? And who’s getting their bank accounts emptied?

Wolf Detection 101-Detecting the Counterfeit

Hidden wolves come at the church from many different directions. So Christians need spiritual discernment.

The best protection against false teachers is to read the Scriptures regularly. As you do, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you and draw you closer to God.

Agents in Canada are trained to detect counterfeit bills by becoming very familiar with genuine Canadian bills. Real currency has certain characteristics and features that are hard for the forgers to duplicate. One key element? Fake bills often “feel wrong” because real money is printed on special cotton-based paper.

Christians can detect spiritual wolves in the same way.

After years of reading the Bible, false teachings often jar me, because they don’t align with the true Word of God. It may take me a while to spot what’s wrong, but I know there’s “something off.”

So, what about you—what sharpens your spiritual discernment?

This image came from


Yes, wolves can sometimes be women teachers too.

Let me make one disclaimer: a Christ-loving preacher might be mistaken in what he or she teaches, but still be a good sheep in the Lord’s flock. Wolves are detected because of the hidden motives within their hearts.

Here are two articles by Tim Challies on the principles of Christian discernment and detecting false Canadian bills.

Counterfeit Detection (Part 1)

Counterfeit Detection (Part 2)





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