An interesting and difficult-to-understand statement of Jesus comes to mind.
‘————-For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.’ (Luke 16:8)
The statement is made in the context of the story of the shrewd and dishonest manager, whose shrewdness was commended despite his lack of integrity in his job as a manager. The statement made by Jesus above is truly a rare proclamation about one who knows God, demonstrating inferior behavior despite being in the light.
First, we need to understand that shrewdness, interestingly, is one of the attributes of God.
to the pure you show yourself pure, but to the crooked you show yourself shrewd. (Psalms 18:26)
The Lord does not ask us to put on a behavior that is alien to him. It is one of the attributes we see in the way he deals with a crooked generation. It is helpful to understand that shrewdness is not very different from wisdom, which is the ability to have insight into circumstances and people. Consider Paul’s words,
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ. (Philippians 1:9,10)
Shrewdness is an offshoot of wisdom where the pilgrim uses the God-given insight derived to modify his behavior in his dealings with a crooked world where correct decision-making is anything but easy.
What are some of the ways a person in the light fails to have wisdom and shrewdness?
The most common area is one of failure to appropriately handle anything that is worldly. Because a Christian is looking forward to a world to come, he might fail to take an interest in the things of this world like his non-Christian friends would. Because you are looking forward to a world to come, are money-management, investments, job negotiations, planning for college, retirement etc. any less important? No. Does a doctor who is a believer try any less to save the life of a patient who is also a believer, because both are looking forward to an eternal life? Surely not!
Allowing the world to take undue advantage of a Christian because he knows God is another common mistake. True Jesus did exhort his followers to go the extra mile and also to willingly bear unjust suffering that might come their way, but that needs to be balanced by standing up for justice and moving through the world with shrewdness.
I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. (Mat 10:16)
Finally, allowing the world to judge you by adopting a lifestyle of legalism is a common mistake that many Christians fall for. Nothing can suffocate the life out a believer than the undue demands of legalism that he unnecessarily invites into his lifestyle. Paul’s words are instructive,
16 Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 17 These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. ——————21 “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? 22 These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. 23 Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. (Colossians 2)
As a Christian progresses in love and transformation into the image of Christ, he begins to access the treasures of wisdom found in Christ alone.
My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:2,3)
It is only when love is perfected that wisdom and shrewdness is also perfected.
- TWO QUESTIONS ABOUT SHREWDNESS