I just finished this book called Shrewd by a friend of mine. His name is Rick Lawrence and I wanted to share this with you all. You can pick up the book on Amazon.
Because “shrewd” is not a commonly used word, could you expound on its meaning?
In my book, I describe “shrewd” this way: “It’s a weapons-grade relational tactic—a way of thinking and acting—that Jesus long ago urged His followers to use in their uprising against the powers and ‘spiritual forces of wickedness’ of this world. Shrewd people (and Jesus is the Exemplar) first study how things work, and then leverage that knowledge to tip the balance in a favored direction. Shrewdness is the expert application of the right force at the right time in the right place.” Most Christians have a negative reaction to the word “shrewd,” but Jesus not only exemplified this way of relating to others in His redemptive mission on earth, He gave us a mandate to grow much, much more adept in our practice of it. The point of His “Parable of the Shrewd Manager” (Luke 16:1-8) is specifically to highlight the behavior of a lazy, lying, good-for-nothing servant who has no qualities we’d want to emulate except for one: his shrewd way of saving himself from the consequences of his terrible behavior. Jesus highlights this anti-role-model for one purpose: “The people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light.” Later, in preparation for sending out His disciples on their first ministry journey without Him, He tells them to take nothing with them (no clothing, money, or “insurance” of any kind)—instead, He tells them they need just two things: 1. Be as shrewd as a serpent, and 2. Be as innocent as a dove. The word He uses here for “serpent” is the same one He uses for Satan. And the word He uses here for “dove” is the same the Bible uses to describe the Holy Spirit. He’s telling His disciples to be as shrewd as Satan is, but as innocent as the Holy Spirit is. Shrewdness, then, is a way of living and relating that Jesus first modeled for us, then commanded us to do likewise.
Would Jesus’ disciples in New Testament times have found this a startling command?
Absolutely. When Jesus told His disciples the Parable of the Shrewd Manager, they were surrounded by the Pharisees and the teachers of the law—their own private “wolf pack” encircling the “sheep.” In the midst of this pack of predators, Jesus turns to His disciples and tells them this startling, scandalous, but crystal-clear story—a story that challenges
everything we think we know about Him. He chooses His words, and His setting, well. He’s essentially pointing to the “pack” and outlining for His disciples exactly how to defeat its tactics and innate superiority. They are, He asserts, just like sheep—an animal that is wholly helpless to defend itself against predators. When Jesus ends His story with a pointed reference to “the people of the light” and their “shrewdness deficit,” He’s not only telling them something that is shocking to their sensibilities, He’s likely offending them with His assessment of their abilities.
Does His command apply to Christians today?
Anything Jesus says to His Disciples (the Twelve), applies to His disciples—that’s you and me. The reason that Jesus’ behavior often seems erratic, counterintuitive, and even incomprehensible to us is that He never says or does anything that isn’t shrewd. He is all the time and everywhere leveraging people and situations to His “favored” direction, even (and especially) when He is tender, sensitive, and kind. And He wants all of us to follow His example—that’s why He tells us the Parable of the Shrewd Manager. As His disciples, people who acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus in our lives, our response is to grow as practitioners of shrewd. And if we are truly “like sheep running through a wolf pack” (Matt. 10:16 MSG), we ignore His imperative to grow in shrewdness at our own peril.
Why was it important to you to write about this concept?
Five-or-so years ago I was locked in what felt like an all-out war over a ministry dream that was in danger of dying, because a man who was much shrewder than me was bent on stopping it. One day, in my grief and fear and anger over what was about to happen, God sort of “sat me down” and challenged me—it was clear that my “frontal” way of dealing with this situation was not going to work, and He was asking me if I was going to have the courage to move more shrewdly. I asked Him to teach me what I needed to know about shrewdness, and He (of course) brought me to Jesus, the source of all good things. Unlike us (by His own assessment), Jesus is “more shrewd than the people of this world,” and that means He’s perpetually taking what His enemies intend for evil and morphing it into good. Jesus is always and everywhere out-leveraging Satan and his allies, using the destructive momentum he creates against them, like a martial artist.