Following last week’s article, two interesting questions were raised about shrewdness, which enables us to understand this topic better.

  1. How could a person in the light be inferior in any way to a person who does not know the Lord?

The Bible makes it clear that a person in the light is far better off in every way compared to one who is in darkness. Based on Jesus’ statement in Luke 16:8, this appears to be an example where the reverse is true. Why is it so?

Man has to interact with others in this world and he uses several tools that have been learned from tradition, family, upbringing, culture, peer pressure, media etc. to take daily decisions in these interactions. The ‘street-smart’ are the ones who are very good at these interactions and navigate their way through this world, getting things done efficiently. When such a person becomes a Christian, he is placed within an entirely new world-view and has to learn to accomplish the same things, albeit using different tools. From being ‘street-smart’, he has to learn to become ‘spirit-smart’ and this is not an easy process.

This is like two people who are illiterate, but by virtue of having grown up hearing others speak, know how to speak the language in the society they live in. Neither learned to write the alphabet, but both of them in their adult-life are given the option of learning the alphabet. One of them takes the opportunity and goes through the difficult process of learning the alphabet and the grammar of the language he was used to speaking. And as he goes through the phase of learning and incorporating the correct language into his vocabulary, he struggles to speak as he attempts to re-phrase his words. This is a phase when his ‘illiterate’ friend who refused to learn the alphabet continues to speak well, while he himself is tongue-tied. However as the learning progresses, he will move into a phase where not only will the fluency return, but he will also be more eloquent and expansive in his use of the language which he now really knows.

It is no different for a Christian. As the process of transformation continues, he will move from being inadequate in his dealings with world to being wise, shrewd and discerning. The one who is not yet there is the one who fits the description of Jesus’ statement.

  1. How is the practice of legalism related to a paucity of shrewdness in dealing with the world?

It is inevitable that a person who comes to know the Lord will gather together a list of ‘things to do’ early in his Christian life. There is nothing unusual or wrong about it. The world was given the ten commandments and the law for several generations before the fullness of the law was revealed in the form of Jesus. While do’s and don’ts may characterize early Christian life, persisting in the same is a reflection of a retarded Christian life. True freedom is found in Christ and the fullness of a Christian life is characterized by freedom. However many Christians put together a set of laws by which they are bound and unashamedly impose the same on others, not hesitating to condemn those who dare to sway from their diktats. These are the legalists for whom Paul had the choicest words of condemnation in the epistles.

Imagine a legalist living life and interacting with others in the society. He suffocates himself and depending on the level of authority and influence he might have over others, he ends up suffocating others with his rules. Worse, these rules sound pompous but have no ability to aid transformation, which is the only thing of value in God’s sight.

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 2:23)

A lifestyle of legalism reduces a disciple to a narrow view of the world into which he and others must fit in. Legalism reduces his ability to discern, to love and deal insightfully with people around him. Such a lifestyle is devoid of wisdom, cannot attract people toward Christ and fosters pride in a Christian. Growing in love and embracing the freedom that Christ gives is a major step he could take in having more wisdom and shrewdness.

Feel free to comment about this topic. Let others know your thoughts and experiences in this area.

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