And the master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light.
So…we’re supposed to be shrewd? What exactly is Jesus saying here? That we should be wheelers and dealers, looking for an angle, cooking the books and looking out for number one? Is Jesus commending to us “good business practices”…telling us to look to the world if you want to know how to live? IF you want to know how to be successful…follow the lead of the movers and shakers. Grease the hands that can do you favors down the road…so they will hire you when you’re out of office to a nice cushy job.
Somehow…I’m thinking this is NOT what Jesus was saying. Somehow…it just doesn’t jive with the Jesus who said “if you want to be my disciple, you must deny yourself, pick up your cross, go to your execution, and follow me”…and “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”….and “ Those who try to gain their own life will lose it; but those who lose their life for my sake will gain it.” Somehow, it just doesn’t sound right…especially considering that Jesus finishes this conversation by saying it is impossible to serve wealth and profit and prosperity…and serve God at the same time.
So…then….what IS Jesus saying? I was thinking this week about what it means to be shrewd. You know, if you are playing a shrewd chess player….they are always two moves ahead. They are never just looking at the move they’re making right now…they are thinking about what your next move will be if they do that…and then what their next moves might be after that…and about the subsequent moves after that and after that. They always have a view of the end game. That is what it means to be shrewd. Shrewdness has to do with not getting over-focused on the here and now…but looking ahead to what comes next.
Jesus thinks we should probably be more shrewd. But not in lining our own pockets or protecting our assets and privileges….or increasing our profits, our wealth…our prosperity. No, Jesus wants us to be shrewd in our faith. What would it mean if we were to stop being over-focused on the here and now and instead, keep our eyes focused on the end game? What if what Jesus meant was that all my worry and stress and fretting about money and stuff … about elections and governments … about all the “here and now” things that consume my days …is foolish? What if being shrewd and looking ahead…means that I keep focused on what really matters – on the truth that this is God’s world…that these people around me are all my sisters and brothers…that we are all God’s children? What if being “’shrewd” means remembering that all the money and all the stuff I have and others have – really, it all belongs to God anyway…so I may as well share it with others, just like the manager in the parable? What if I am “shrewd” when I remember that grace and mercy and forgiveness of debts are more powerful than any boss or any government… because that’s how Jesus saves the world? What if I am “shrewd” when I keep an eye on the future…not just my retirement, but my eternal future… when I make decisions?
I can’t help but think that might be what Jesus meant. After all, the next story Jesus tells is of the rich man and Lazarus. You remember it, don’t you? The rich man who is in torment after death, while Lazarus, the beggar who he saw and ignored on the roadside every day, is at the heavenly feast with Abraham, the father of the Jewish faith. And the rich man wants to warn his family…wants Lazarus to let them know they should change their ways, and notice the poor and give to the needy. But Abraham says…it’s not going to help. Like you…they are so focused on protecting their own wealth and their privilege, they won’t pay attention even if someone rises from the dead. They just can’t see what’s ahead.
Jesus says…be shrewd. Think ahead to your eternal home. Think about your eternal life with Jesus. Live today, remembering that you share eternity with those around you. Because this world, and all its people… belong to God. You know, we can get so caught up in the here and now, that we become part of the fear and hate and name calling …and we forget what really matters. What matters is that you belong to God. Everything you own…belongs to God. This world belongs to God. Every person belongs to God. And our shrewdness means that in every single thing…even the small things…we remember THAT is the end game.
Oh…I have strong feelings about this election, to be sure. But can whoever is elected change the goodness of God or the undo the claim of Christ that all creation holds together in him? Nope. So I will not succumb to hate and anger and fear. I will follow Jesus. I will try love my neighbor as myself.
I have concerns about finances some days, to be sure …but even if I lose everything and live on the streets, does it undo the love of Christ for me or my family? Nope. So I will not succumb to fear and anxiety and put my trust in money. I will follow Jesus. And I will try to love my neighbor as myself.
I love my country, to be sure…I’m grateful for its freedoms and I love its beauty…but if it ceases to exist…does it mean God can no longer be trusted? Nope. So I will not succumb to idolatry of my country…or lose sight of God’s love for the whole world. I will try to love my neighbor as myself.
Be shrewd. Indeed. But Jesus’ shrewdness sees way, WAY beyond our foolish goals of wealth and prosperity and security. Jesus’ kind of shrewdness sees a future where the world has been redeemed…where light shatters darkness and love trumps hate and kindness is more powerful than violence. And Jesus says…that is the ace you’ve got in the hole. That is the angle we’re playing. That is the end game. You see…God wins. So follow me. You have nothing to fear. Go ahead. Give away what you can…it doesn’t belong to you anyway. Love your neighbor as yourself. All of them.
I want to end by sharing a video…of a church in Memphis, Tennessee, that decided to love their neighbors instead of living in fear: http://www.upworthy.com/what-happens-when-a-muslim-center-opens-up-across-from-a-christian-church-community