Wise Up Naïve Christian!

Text: Luke 16:1-9

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Over the years, I have really come to dislike today’s reading from the Gospel of Luke. 


The reason why?


It is a difficult parable to understand – and preach. It has been called one of the most difficult parables that Jesus ever taught.  


Now, if you are like me, I have always gotten hung up on the part where the master in the parable praises the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. It sounds as if Jesus is teaching that being dishonest and crooked are good. It comes across as if the dishonest manager did a good deed by being a fraud.  


However, if we look very carefully at this parable, what we learn from Jesus is that the dishonest manager is not praised for being dishonest but praised for being shrewd. He was praised for how he disentangled himself from a most difficult predicament. In other words, it is good, right, and salutary for us Christians to be street-smart, as they say. The unrighteous manager was streetwise. He was on the ball. He was alert. He looked for angles to survive. And so, through this parable, Jesus is showing you and me that we need to be street smart in the same way but for what is right, not wrong. Jesus is teaching us that we Christians are not to be a bunch of foolish-naïve-victims in this life but to be shrewd, wise, and mindful. 


Often times the world criticizes us Christians for being a bunch of foolish religious people. We are criticized as people who have dumb and blind faith. Now, while many of these criticisms are overly and unfairly harsh, we must admit that there are many times where the world is right. In other words, we Christians could do better by heeding to Jesus’ teaching in this parable.  We could do better to be shrewd and wise.  


Unfortunately, we Christians can sometimes be very ignorant and naïve. I don’t think we intentionally try to be ignorant or naïve. Instead, our ignorance can come about from well-intentioned parents, pastors, and Sunday School teachers who try and shelter our children and churches by constructing protective bubbles. For example, we make these protective bubbles in the artwork we create, the Bible stories we read, and the theology we teach.  Have you ever seen a children’s picture of Noah’s Ark? Sure, you see happy Noah hugging a smiling giraffe on the ark, but you will never see the thousands of drowning pagans clawing at the side of the boat as they drown in the waters. And our Bible stories? How often do we teach the Bible as if it rated G when in reality it would be Rated R? Yes, too often, the church reads the Bible as if “it is a nice book for nice people about nice folks who said and did nice things, where everything leads to a nice and happy ending.”[1]  And our theology? Too often in the church, we diminish just how serious things like sin, hell, and damnation are, while at the same time we sanitize our theology from the messy-blood and scary-looking cross. We like theology that isn’t reverent, demanding, frightening, or too intellectual. We like our theology tame, clean, neat, and safe.  


Now, I am certainly not advocating that we spend our time dancing in our sin or celebrating the deeds of darkness. But rather, my point is that we are certainly not of this world, but we will always be in this world. And so, since we Christians are in this world, there is no room for Hallmark Theology, Nicety-nice Bible Stories, and flowery artwork, for when the church goes this way, it certainly will be as innocent as a dove, but not shrewd like a snake.  


Dear friends, keep in mind that today’s parable is not the only place where Jesus calls us Christians to be shrewd. He teaches this in other places too. For example, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells us that when we listen to His Word and follow His Word, we are shrewd, we are like a wise man who builds a house on solid rock. That is to say, listening to Jesus’ Word and abiding by His Word is like having a house on a rock that withstands floods, wind, and storms. And in Matthew chapter 10, Jesus also tells us to be as shrewd as a serpent and innocent as doves. Yes, we Christians are to be prudent and cunning like snakes, while at the same time, innocent and simple like doves. The point being, there is no excuse for naïve and flighty Christians. Being a Christian is to be wise and shrewd. Being a Christian means that you are to be aware of reality.  


Take that dishonest manager as an example! He was completely aware of his predicament, which is the reason why he acted shrewdly. And think about that man who built his house on the rock! He did so because he was aware of the storms and waves. And think about a snake! Snakes are shrewd because they are aware of their surrounding. They know when to retreat into their shelters to protect their head from being cut off. They know how to move through the brush with silence. And so, we Christians are called by Jesus to be wise to the realities of life. We are called to be diligently aware of the threats around us. We are to be aware of the old Adam in others. We are to be aware and take heed to His Word. 


And so, the parable from Jesus is certainly a wake-up call for us. Jesus commends a dishonest crook for his shrewdness to grab our attention. The parable should rattle us out of our pleasant and calm spiritual lives. The parable should shake us out of our huggable and lovey theological systems. The parable should intrude into our lives and say to us, 


“Wise up! If a crooked and dishonest manager can be wise, why aren’t you? If pagans are wise with unrighteous things, shouldn’t you – as Christians – be wiser with Godly things?” 


Dear friends, it is tempting, though, not to want to be wise as a Christian. Frankly, it just feels like it would be easier that way. It is less scary to be naïve and foolish to the world, God, and the way things are. But truth be told, the scariest reality would be to not be wise, to not hear scripture, and not understand the reality of life under this sun. 


Sure, being wise will bring out fear, as you recognize the predicament of this world, sin, and death. But never forget that the shrewdness and wisdom of Christ are not only about calling a thing what it is but also about placing you directly into the heart of sacred theology to hear about what Christ has done and will do for you.  


Baptized Saints, you are not called to be wise and then left in fear. Being wise does not mean that you are given the ability to see the storm and the waves but then are not given a rock to build upon. Heaven’s no! Being wise is being attentive, alert, and aware of not only difficult things but also the reality of Christ and what He has done.


Hear this! Being shrewd and wise is boldly being aware of the limitations of mankind, the struggles of the flesh, and the attacks of the devil – and then being wise unto Christ for forgiveness, life, and salvation. Being shrewd and wise is understanding the predicaments of life – like that dishonest manager who understood his predicament – and then not building a house on the sand but resting upon the rock.  


Being shrewd and wise is being able to be wise as a snake because you know this world is full of all sorts of threats, but it is also being as innocent as a dove because you know Christ holds all things for you. 


So, dear Baptized Saints, don’t be shrewd for shrewd’s sake. But instead, tune your ears to God’s Word. Set your heart upon Christ and His gifts, for wisdom and shrewdness are given freely, not for unrighteous gain but for your edification and the service of your neighbors. Live not only for the moment, as so many pagans do, but live with attention to eternity. 

And as you live wisely and faithfully, remember that at the end, the Lord Jesus will welcome you saying, 


“Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a few things. I will put you in charge of many things. Enter the joy of your Lord.”    


In the name of Jesus. Amen.     


[1] Chaplain Mike, Should the Bible Be “Rated R?” (out of print blog post)

CLICK HERE to 'Like' on Facebook
CLICK HERE to 'Follow' on Twitter
CLICK HERE to Subscribe on iTunes

CLICK HERE to Subscribe on Podbean