Summary: Jesus calls his disciples to be shrewd


Congregational Participation Question: How would you define the word “shrewd”? Can you think of something that you or someone else did that would qualify to be called “shrewd?”

Here are some definitions from the dictionaries:


possessing or based on clear understanding and good judgment of a situation, resulting in an advantage

He was shrewd enough not to take the job when there was the possibility of getting a better one a few months later.

It was shrewd of you to make that investment.

She is a shrewd politician who wants to avoid offending the electorate unnecessarily.

She has a reputation for shrewd management decisions.

It was a shrewd move to buy your house just before property prices started to rise.

She has a shrewd eye for publicity and rarely misses an opportunity to appear in the media.


1: marked by practical hardheaded intelligence; "a smart businessman"; "an astute tenant always reads the small print in a lease"; "he was too shrewd to go along with them on a road that could lead only to their overthrow" [syn: {astute}, {sharp}]

2: used of persons; "the most calculating and selfish men in the community" [syn: {calculating}, {calculative}, {conniving}, {scheming}]

Related Words: canny, crafty, foxy, ingenious, slick, sly, tidy; clever, intelligent, knowing, quick-witted, smart; polite, smooth; judicious, prudent, sensible, wise; penetrating, piercing, probing; acute, keen, sharp; farsighted, foresighted

Contrasted Words green, naive, simple, soft; foolable, gullible, slow

Keep this meaning of the word “shrewd” in mind as you hear the story found in Luke 16:1-8 once again.

An employer discovers that one of his managers has been cheating him and defrauding his business. The boss calls Wile E. Coyote to his office and tells him to clean out his desk and produce his account records.

The account manager considers his options. He knows that he is too old to get another job that pays as well. The thought of manual labour brings blisters to his hands. Until now the most demanding physical thing he had ever done was moving his golf clubs from the garage to the Mercedes ML 430 and back from the Mercedes into the garage. Unemployment insurance will not pay all his bills and a lawyer will only tie things up for months. So, he arranges a lunch appointment at an expensive restaurant with his main accounts to do some wheeling and dealing.

During his last meal on his company’s credit card, he discusses each client’s accounts. He tells them that since they have been such good customers he is offering them a rebate on their previous purchases to be credited to their account. They sign the papers, shake hands, and return to their respective office thinking that the account manager is a wonderful man.

Later that afternoon, the account manager brings his books to his boss’s office. The boss takes one look at the books, smells something, stands up and goes to the back room. “Oh, oh” thinks Wile E. “Here it comes. He’s going to come back with a security guard and have me arrested.” But, instead, the boss comes back with an envelope and a piece of clothing. “You’re fired. Here’s your severance. But before you leave, try this on for size.” As he started tying the strings around his manager’s waist, the boss said: “Wile E. Coyote, you’re a dirty, rotten scoundrel, but you’re a shrewd one. I really admire the way you used my money to buy yourself some “fire-ing insurance” with my top clients. Please accept this chef’s apron as a token of my admiration for the way you cooked my books. Now get the heaven out of my building and keep on cooking.”

That is Jesus’ definition of “shrewd”. Before we can recover from the shock of hearing the boss praise the dishonest manager for his ingenuity, here comes the aftershock: “The people of this world are much more shrewd in handling their affairs than the people who belong to the light.” He just punched us in the face with that remark. He says that he wants us to be at least as shrewd as Wile E. Coyote. Not dishonest. But shrewd.

Here we’ve been focussing on being prude; but he wants us to be shrewd.

We thought we just had to be nice; he says we also need to be wise.

We were caught up in teaming and dreaming; he says we also need to be scheming.

We’d been told that being straight-laced was the trick; he says try being slick.

As we read in Peterson’s translation of the New Testament known as "The Message": "Now here’s the surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! Why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter ... than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way--but for what is RIGHT--using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behaviour."

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