The prudent act


Luke 16

Beginning of 11th century

Beginning of 11th century.  The text is from the beginning of the Gospel of Luke (1:3-6)  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8 His 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.

I understand why someone would choose the translation ‘shrewdly,’ but nearly everywhere else in scripture the Greek word simply means wise, prudent or sensible.  The wise man builds his house on a rock.  The five wise virgins brought extra oil.  Joseph and Solomon are commended for their wisdom.  It’s a practical wisdom, an ability to understand the world in which one lives.

This word shrewd carries a vaguely negative connotation, which confuses the meaning of the parable.  We are not called to be shrewd in the presence of Jesus, but to be wise: to understand, to judge properly the moment that is upon us and choose well.

In our midst stands the one commissioned to speak on God’s behalf.   Before us is the embodiment of God’s word to the world.  Here the reign of God is dawning.  Here the truth of existence is made known and the destiny of the world revealed.  What is the wise and prudent action?

Crassly put, if judgment day is upon us, we better be feeding the poor, loving our neighbors, welcoming the outcast and forgiving those who sin against us.  When Mom and Dad show up suddenly after going out for the evening, we better be washing the dishes, doing our homework and putting ourselves to bed as commanded.  It’s only prudent.

The rich man’s estate manager was caught with his hand in the cookie jar.  He sized up his situation clearly, chose intelligently, and acted decisively.  The so called “children of light,” the religious people of Jesus’ day, lack sense.  They claim allegiance to the font of generosity, the wellspring of grace, yet live miserly, judgmental lives.  Instead of rejoicing at God’s gracious gathering of all people, they complain about someone sitting in their pew or children that make too much noise.  It’s dangerous ground.

The prudent build their homes on the rock.  The prudent recognize the one who is knocking at the door.  The prudent understand that money/possessions are a tool not a goal: a tool by which God’s grace can be manifest in the world.

And the prudent act.