God Commands Shrewdness
by Josh Hunt
I read a best selling book by a prominent Christian author recently that had a chapter on the "Sin of cleverness." (Go ahead, scan your library. You have probably read this book too.)
In a way, I understand what the writer is saying. It could be a problem that we depended so heavily on our own cleverness that we did not rely on God. Spiritual authenticity is certainly a requirement if we expect to see the hand of God's blessing on our lives. Jesus said, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned." John 15:5-6 [NIV] We are told to acknowledge God in all our ways.
Without Christ we can accomplish nothing of lasting spiritual value. It is a sobering reality. I would like to think I could do a little bit. I would like to think that Christ could supercharge my already effective ministry. But that is not what Jesus said. He said, "without me you can do nothing."
"Nothing." The word drops with a thud.
Still, this is not the only thing Jesus said. Consider this verse. What is Jesus commanding us here?
"I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. Matthew 10:16 [NIV]
Grab a pen. Let's do a little Bible study. Jesus commanded us to be _______________.
Who did Jesus commend in this passage?
The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. 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 [NIV]
Got your pen handy? God commended the dishonest manger because he acted ________________.
In the first passage Jesus commanded shrewdness. In the second passage, he commended the shrewd man, teaching by example that we too should try to be shrewd. To my mind, shrewdness and cleverness are synonyms. For sure, we could depend too heavily on our own cleverness. The Bible warns that we not lean on our own understanding. But in the circles I have run in, the problem is not being too clever. More often the problem is not being clever enough.
Shrewdness had to do with figuring out how to be and do the things Christ called us to be and do. It has to do with figuring out how to be obedient to the command of God to make disciples of all nations. When He told us to feed the poor, he didn't give us the recipe for the soup. It is fairly complicated in our world. It is hard work, and we need to figure it out. Many of us grew up in churches that were largely ineffective in effectively penetrating the pagan world. We grew up in a church on plateau and we have to reinvent church in order to discover how we can become a church that is obedient to the command of God to make disciples of all nations. Paul prayed that the gospel would spread and spread rapidly. Most of us have never seen it. We need to pray and think.