Sunday, February 16

Be shrewd

Scripture: Leviticus 26-27, Acts 23

Acts 23:6 Paul realized that some members of the high council were Sadducees and some were Pharisees, so he shouted, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, as were my ancestors! And I am on trial because my hope is in the resurrection of the dead!”


Paul was on trial before the Jewish high court, the Sanhedrin.  He realized that he was in a no-win situation by the way the trial started: after his first sentence, the high priest ordered him slapped across the mouth.  Hardly fair and impartial justice!  

So Paul shrewdly played off the divisions within the Sanhedrin.  Some were Sadducees and some Pharisees.  He took one side (the Pharisees) knowing that an argument would break out and the Pharisees would come to his defense, dividing the council.  

It is an example of something Jesus taught His followers.

Matthew 10:16  Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves. So be as shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves.

In the face of danger, we’re to be both shrewd (wise) and harmless (pure, innocent).  There was nothing dishonest about what Paul did, but it was shrewd, wise, clever.  He read the situation and wisely used it to his advantage.  This same word (in Greek and English) is used in…

Luke 16:8  The rich man had to admire the dishonest rascal for being so shrewd. And it is true that the children of this world are more shrewd in dealing with the world around them than are the children of the light.

Evidently, we could benefit from being more shrewd. 


The word “shrewd” tends to have a negative connotation, but a visit to Webster’s shows that it is both positive (“marked by clever discerning awareness”) and negative (“given to wily and artful ways or dealing”).  

Here in the NT, the word is positive—it simply means wise or discerning.  And in this case, the wise thing for Paul was to use what he knew to his own advantage, for his own safety.  There is nothing wrong with that; in fact, it’s exactly what Jesus said to do.

More broadly, we need to be “wise in the way we act toward outsiders.”  (Col 3:5)  Good communication has been described as “steering the truth around other people’s roadblocks.”  This requires some discernment on what to say and how to say it—be shrewd.  If I want to share the gospel with someone I love, I should wisely find the best avenue of approach—be shrewd.

Prayer: Lord, help me to be more shrewd, more wise, particularly with those who may oppose or be indifferent to my faith.  Help me to find a way to steer the truth around their roadblocks.