Shrewd Like Serpents & Doves

Do you have “street smarts” that have been developed and sharpened by the Holy Spirit? Do have a grasp on how the real world is functioning, or do you have a closed-eyes approach to navigating this fallen world?

Jesus spoke several times about having a shrewd perspective, understanding, and practice in the real world.

“’… 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

Some believe (erroneously) that being “street smart” and “shrewd” does not fit the Sunday School-level concept of real life that they hold to dearly. Their approach remains simplistic, binary, and linear. They assume that being “shrewd” means being unChrist-like and compromising on what is clearly right and wrong.

However, the scriptures both commend and condemn shrewdness on the basis of its context, like motives and actions, and not outright as always being inherently right or wrong. Let’s consider the biblical subject of shrewdness.

Biblical Language Definition of Shrewdness :
  • Astuteness or craftiness in dealings with others, especially in using one’s understanding and judgment to one’s own advantage.
  • Scripture commends it when it is seen in wise words and actions directed towards a worthy goal, but
  • Scripture condemns it when it takes the form of cunning and deceitful scheming for sinful and selfish ends.

~ Dictionary of Bible Themes (Martin H. Manser, Managing Editor)

Jesus’ Call for Us to be Shrewd

Jesus shines His light on the subject, calling for His disciples (i.e. us) to be shrewd (intelligent, tactile, strategic, wise, and understanding human nature) while remaining innocent (a no-compromise life in regard to what is right and wrong).

“’I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.’”

~ Matthew‬ ‭10:16‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬

Being shrewd is where a person looks at a world-minded human being or group, anticipates their course of action, and then plans their own wisdom-based strategic actions accordingly (without compromising righteousness).

The shrewdness of a snake is referred to, and a dove as being innocent. A common mistake is to misunderstand Jesus’ use of the snake analogy: He is encouraging us to be shrewd like a snake without being a snake, to be shrewd in the right way with the innocence and righteousness of a dove.

If you have thought of “shrewd” as always being wrong and worldly, please consider rebuilding your definition of shrewd, and begin to be more clever and wise with “street smarts.” Pray for God to lead you in developing a godly use of shrewdness that is wisdom-based and that you will use it with godly motives and godly actions.

Shrewdness in Political Season

During this election season, if after praying you do not receive a clear direction from the Lord in your heart as to who should receive your vote, consider looking at the big picture with an eye to exercising godly shrewdness.

Our single vote for president has more impact than just for one candidate. Our single vote can also be used shrewdly as a simultaneous vote against another candidate. This is strategic and shrewd, but only if the vote is applied to a particular candidate.

No, I’m not condoning voter fraud. Vote once, and only once! But our single vote can provide more influence upon the outcome if we cast our vote shrewdly, cunningly, and wisely.

Have I said who to vote for? No. However, if while reading the above paragraphs on shrewdness in voting you seemed to clearly see a potential candidate that fits the picture, perhaps you are having a “shrewd” moment of clarity, and not just a “David” moment through the “power of suggestion.” Let’s vote prayerfully, vote our conscience, and of course let’s vote strategically.

Developing a Shrewd Perceptiveness

Beyond the political election season, consider developing a shrewd-with-innocence perceptiveness and practice at home, at work, and in society. It may take time to change your way of seeing things in the light of shrewdness, but ask the Lord to help you be “transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:1-2). Ask Him to help you become shrewd in the way that He intended when He says, “Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves’” ‭‭(Matthew‬ ‭10:16‬‬‬‬‬‬‬).‬‬‬


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