Shrewd As Snakes 1 — Know Where We Stand With God
Updated: Jun 15
Chan Gin Kai
Jesus told his disciples: “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.’” (Luke 16:1-2)
The parable of The Shrewd Manager has certainly gotten many Christians confused, especially when we get to verse 8, when the “master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly”.
Why would Jesus teach his disciples to learn from a dishonest man? Jesus had also taught that we ought to be “as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). They’re not mutually exclusive. We can be shrewd without being wrong.
What can we learn from this manager about shrewdness?
We’re Accountable To God
The manager was terrible, but he wasn’t stupid. When he realised that the master has learnt about his wrongs and was going to hold him accountable, he took it seriously. He was going to lose his job and it would be stupid if he didn’t try to salvage the situation.
It’s a livelihood for him, but it’s heaven or hell for us!
God sees all that we do. We will all face judgment and we will have to give an account to God (Matthew 12:36, Hebrews 4;13). It’s in the Bible. The prophets taught it, Jesus preached it and the apostles wrote about it. Yet it is amazing how many in Christendom deny it.
Many believe in God, but live like He doesn’t exist. They claim to love God’s words, but distort what He says. In their eyes, hell is for sinners, and they’ve forgotten that’s what we all are.
Yes, Jesus has died for all so we might be redeemed. But he’d also taught about what we must do in response to his sacrifice and how we must change to avoid condemnation. How can we accept his redemption but deny his exhortation? How can we desire God’s forgiveness but reject His expectation of repentance?
We are foolish if we think we can pull a fast one on God… Give me Your goodness, but I won’t give You my obedience… Save me, but don’t expect me to change.
We are accountable to God. Do we take that seriously?
We Need Sober Judgment
“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 houses.’” (Luke 16:3-4)
Besides knowing there’s accountability, the shrewd manager had sober judgment — he accepted that he was in trouble.
Firstly, he didn’t bluff himself that everything is fine with his master. He knew and accepted that he was in a real mess. Secondly, he knew his weaknesses, that he wasn’t strong enough to dig and was too ashamed to beg.
The Bible warns us, “Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment” (Romans 12:3).
We love to imagine that we are good. We give excuses for our sins and blame others for our faults. We create a facade of righteousness as much to impress others as to deceive ourselves. It hurts our egos to admit that we’re not as strong as we think or as honourable as we want to believe we are.
How many promises have we made to God and broken? How many decisions after a sermon, wishes on a birthday, and resolutions on a new year have we made to better ourselves, and failed?
Let’s face it. We are sinful, and that’s why we need Jesus. We’ve done wrong, and that’s why we need to change. We are weak, and that’s why we need to grow. It is only when we recognise the mess that we are, and accept that we're in trouble that we can truly turn to God.
Let’s be sober about our sins and weaknesses and realise where we stand with God. The manager had no more chances with his master. We still have with ours.
We Need To Spring Into Action
“So he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’
“‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied.
“The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’
“Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’
“‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied.
“He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’”
The manager didn’t rely on wishful thinking. He knew what had to be done, and he sprang into action. His choice of action was of course wrong, but we can learn something from his perspective…
Wishful thinking will get us nowhere, we need to spring into action.
Let’s not confuse God’s unconditional love with unconditional forgiveness. Some may even think my last sentence a blasphemy. They think we’ll get unconditional forgiveness if we believe in God. But isn’t belief a condition? And if God has set one, couldn’t He have set more?
The answer is obvious when we study out the Bible, but confusing if we choose to deceive ourselves.
God expects us to “make every effort to enter through the narrow door” (Luke 13:24). Effort and action is required. The fact that we cannot earn our salvation doesn’t mean no obedience is required on our part. We know what needs to be done, so let’s spring into action. And if we don’t know, it’s not too late to find out now, though there will be a day when we’ll be too late.
The most important lesson to learn about being shrewd is knowing where we stand with God. Nothing is more crucial.
Read more about ‘Shrewd As Snakes’:
Chan Gin Kai
Gin Kai is a film producer who believes in the power of media to inspire positive changes. He has spearheaded disaster relief and capacity building projects in impoverished communities across Asia. He serves actively in the Central Christian Church and describes himself as “just a sinner who wants to get right with God”.