Summary: Christian shrewdness means to use earthly treasures to build heavnly friendships
Sermon Text: Luke 16:1-10
WHAT’S IT MEAN TO BE SHREWD?
Do you know any shrewd characters? It all depends on our understanding of the word “shrewd”. That word seems to cause red flags to come up in our minds. Perhaps we equate shrewdness with dishonesty. We might think a businessman is shrewd if he cheated his company out of millions of dollars, when that’s not being shrewd, that’s being a cheat.
Jesus actually says that shrewdness is a commendable quality. He teaches this to us with a parable. In this account Jesus answers this question: WHAT’S IT MEAN TO BE SHREWD? In God’s kingdom shrewdness means that we: 1) Consider the Outcome. It also means that we are to 2) Be Creative.
1) Consider the Outcome
In this parable we encounter two main characters: the dishonest manager and his master. Both of these men had one thing in common – they both appreciated shrewdness. To be shrewd means to consider the bottom line. We’re told what the bottom line was for this servant: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’” There’s the bottom line. The rich employer had found out his employee was cheating him, so he called him to prepare his final financial account and then announced that he would be fired that same day. The manager knew his job was finished. He had to do something. But what?
“The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig and I’m ashamed to beg – I know what I’ll do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their homes.’”
This man considered the outcome. He knew the bottom line. He’d be fired. Now, the bottom line was his own doing; the result of being a cheat. He was obviously not faithful with the position his master had given him. Notice how this man handled his situation, though. He didn’t waste any time. He assessed the circumstance, considering everything carefully, and then he acted. He thought of a plan that would help him to expand his options, his bottom line.
What’s surprising is that the employer commends his dishonest, yet, shrewd worker. His cheating, deceitful ways were not commendable. What was admirable was how this wily fellow considered the outcome. He was shrewd enough to know that he had to be one step ahead. If he was going to get caught, at least he was going to have his “bases covered.”
In the same way Jesus tells his followers to have their “bases covered.” “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. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.” How shrewd are we? Do we consider the outcome? I believe we Christians get so frustrated because we see so much potential work that could be done, but then we look at ourselves and see nothing but limitations. Sometimes we’re tempted to look around and say, “this is as good as it’s going to get”, and we leave the bases uncovered.
We don’t always take the outcome into consideration. There are two reasons for this. We are either tempted to think we are inappropriate or that we are inaccessible. Sometimes we’re tempted to think that God can’t possibly use our talents or abilities, or we might think that we’re just the wrong choice. “God can’t possibly use me. I’m can’t serve God’s church in that way. There’s bound to be someone more qualified!” so we think. Then there’s the temptation to think we are too inaccessible to God. It’s as if we tell God that we’d love to serve him, but all our assets are tied up. We tend to become so selfish with things that don’t even belong to us. Our lives – our wealth, health, possessions, time, talents and abilities – are gifts on loan from God. Still we are so greedy with these things because we’re so concerned about our bottom line, our goals and agendas. Then we’re tempted to be the ones who are the dishonest, unfaithful cheats.
Consider the outcome. There was a time when we faced a bleak future and when all the bases were wide-open. As sinners born into this world, we were looking at an eternity of destruction, and that was as good as it was going to get. That was the bottom line. Yet, God considered that outcome and it broke his heart. He could not stand to see us suffer for all of eternity. God was shrewd. He considered the bottom line and then took action. He sent his Son to cancel the debt of sin. Christ shed his own blood to pay the outstanding balance sin had left on our account. And Christ Jesus rose from the grave proving that the transaction had been made. The debt had been canceled. That account still stands clear to this day. Christ’s forgiveness is still credited to us. His love still governs our cheating, dishonest hearts. His faithfulness cancels out our sinful feelings of inadequacy or stinginess. He frees us from our own sinful limitations and inspires us to serve him with the strength and ability he provides. Our Savior shows us how he first considered the outcome for us, and then he calls us to consider this outcome in light of others. He covered all the bases. Now, that’s shrewd.