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Luke 16:1-13 - How to be Shrewd

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How to be Shrewd

The word shrewd is only used in one place in the Bible. It means
Astuteness or craftiness in dealings with others, especially in using one’s understanding and judgment to one’s own advantage.
Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.
So, it is essentially a form of wisdom and discernment when dealing with others that can be used for personal gain. The Bible does talk about this kind of wisdom in different ways throughout scriptures without using the word.
The wisdom of the world is talked about in as something that is much different than the wisdom that is from God. They come from entirely different sources. One is from understanding the mind of God in what He reveals where the other is essentially accepting the natural thoughts that man might come up with during his short time on the earth. Near the end of that discussion he says
1 Corinthians 3:18–20 ESV
Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you thinks that he is wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness,” and again, “The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.”
James talks about wisdom from above and compares it with earthly wisdom. He says,
James 3:15–17 ESV
This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.
James 3:15-
What we often see Jesus say is that those who love the world and are focused on the world’s things are against those who love God and are focused on His purposes. These are the foundational concepts for what the apostles will later reveal in detail.

Parable of the Shrewd Steward

Luke 16:1–8 ESV
He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light.
So, this wasteful steward got caught and decides to make some quick deals to provide a future for himself. He takes 3 years worth of wages in debt and cuts it in half. He takes 8-10 years worth of wages and cuts it by 20%. The master does not get upset about it.
This may be a shocking parable. Why would an unrighteous and even evil man be commended? This parable has a lengthy ending to help with that explanation, but first I’d like to notice that He says “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation.”
First, He says “the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation.”
Luke 16:1–13 ESV
He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

Point 1 - These are the Sons of this World

This shows us that He is trying to get a point across to help those who He is talking to understand what they have to look forward to.
The people who will fight against you have complicated and deceitful ways similar to Satan’s words in the garden.
We see this in the world every day when we pay attention. We see the temptations that are thrown at us on our cell phones, our TVs, our Computers. It is plastered on billboards and discretely hidden inside of the most popular TV shows. They twist truth and take advantage of generosity. would typically be owed, but regardless the master loses a sizable amount of money by this action and he’s not upset about it.
No
In this case the man is reducing debts owed to the master. It may be that these amounts are some interest that has built up or some fees that the steward, but He makes a crafty decision to preserve himself. He embezzles from his master.
Jesus’ point is that we also must be crafty and discerning about spiritual things that preserve spiritual life for ourselves and those around us.

Point 2 - Eternity Matters

The explanation doesn’t end there though.
Luke 16:9–13 ESV
And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. “One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
In this discussion about the parable we see that God wants to trust us with true riches, but He will not if we are not faithful over a little.
So, Jesus wants us to see that the choice to take advantage of God’s generosity will result in comfort in this life, but eternity will be a little different.
There is no command for acting shrewdly to accomplish evil given here.
Matthew 10:16 ESV
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
I think that the words here by Jesus are similar. He wants His disciples to be on watch and not suffer harm at the expense of those wolves.
He also wants us to be as crafty about gaining eternally reward from God.

Using a bad example

Some might say that Jesus showing a man who is dishonest receiving praise is not a good way to get the point accross, but He has done this in as well to discuss an unrighteous judge.
Luke 18:1–8 ESV
And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’ ” And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Luke 18
He uses these kinds of examples because they spark interest and the need to see God’s purpose in a world filled with a mixture of unjust experiences.
We want a different kind of shrewdness. We want to be wise and discerning.
Philippians 1:9–11 ESV
And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

How to be Shrewd

1. Be Faithful in a Very Little

Luke 16:10–12 ESV
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own?
10-11
The worldly wisdom has all kind of little rules for getting rich. You just have to do the little things right and be disciplined in those and you will one day experience the joys of the super rich.
In this case, Jesus shows us that God is giving us something very little while we are here to see what we will do with it. You should be thinking of the other parable we just studied about the talents. God will add to them more than is deserved.
This sparks a question of “How committed are you to God?” Do you think that God doesn’t see how faithful you are over the resources God blesses you with?
Is God really going to reward you by putting you as a ruler over even angels if you aren’t faithful to the little things that are given to you?
You and I must recognize our great responsibility and make sure that we aren’t becoming a self server. When He says you cannot serve God and mammon He says you must choose God or your possessions.
Your heart must be faithful so that you are choosing to do for God instead of doing for yourself.

2. Be Spiritually Focused

1 Corinthians 2:3–10 ESV
And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God.
Luke 16:13 ESV
No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”
Matt 10:
1 cor 2 3-
Matthew 10:16 ESV
“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.
Luke 16:
God wanted to share with us the most wise and discerning act that has every been conceived and fulfilled so that we can partake of spiritual life!
His work should never be hijacked and used to glorify ourselves. We simply use our money and possessions to glorify God.
We instead set up ways to hold to our God and Savior.
Our home is nearing completion and I feel the draw to stay at this house and enjoy the fruits of my labor. To eat, drink, and be merry, but I know I have been given this gift to glorify God with it.
We must choose to honor God with our money. We are tested to see if we are going to preserve our temporal life or spiritual life.

2. The Wisdom Ought to be Spiritually Focused

As we saw these Sons of the World acting shrewdly to preserve their life, we are to use wisdom from God to preserve our spiritual life.

The Lovers of Money

Luke 15:1–2 ESV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”
Luke 15:1–3 ESV
Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” So he told them this parable:
Luke 16:14 ESV
The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him.
:1-3
Our time here is spent as stewards of God’s blessings.
Matthew 7:24–25 ESV
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
A life focused on retirement is not wise. You get to be 65 and retire then you die at 66. You get to where you can afford anything and you can’t enjoy it for long.
It all ends.
Proverbs 12:23 ESV
A prudent man conceals knowledge, but the heart of fools proclaims folly.
Matthew 24:45–47 ESV
“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.
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