Shrewdness and Deceit

By this you shall be tested: by the life of Pharaoh, you shall not go from this place unless your youngest brother comes here. Send one of you, and let him bring your brother, while you remain confined, that your words may be tested, whether there is truth in you. Or else, by the life of Pharaoh, surely you are spies.” And he put them all together in custody for three days. Genesis 42:15-17

When I hear the word shrewd, I don’t naturally think of it as a Christ-like attribute. It has negative connotations in our language, but there is such a thing as Spirit-led shrewdness. Joseph made use of it here, not for self-protection or revenge, but for tough love. He withheld information from his brothers about his identity and then went on to arrange events for the brothers’ ultimate good. One theologian suggests that ‘Joseph played the role of a detective conducting a tough interrogation. He could not proceed with full transparency and expect to get accurate information from them.’

The Hebrew word for shrewdness is ‘ormah’, translated as ‘good judgment, prudent, or clever.  Consider Proverbs 12:23 One who is clever conceals knowledge, but the mind of a fool broadcasts folly.  Shrewdness is called for when I must do God’s work in hostile circumstances. Jesus instructed His disciples to be ‘shrewd as snakes and harmless as doves’.  This is a life-saving spiritual skill and, lacking critical discernment, we trust the wrong people and become casualties.

We are often taught that a Christian should always be transparent and always nice. If asked a question, we should answer it. But there are exceptions. Openness and transparency should be reserved for those who earn it. I am to be shrewd when I am in proximity to someone who does not have God’s interest at heart. If they have a track record for dealing treacherously with others, and I feel it would have negative consequences to be fully upfront, I might give them partial truths, a kind of Joseph-answer, to protect kingdom enterprises that are fragile. If I am prayerful, void of personal agendas, I can rest assured that shrewdness is wisdom.

The danger here would be to conclude that God condones all deceit.  Shrewdness that withholds information should be the exception rather than the rule.  I remember that Joseph worked through betrayal, for decades. The deception he employed was for his brothers’ good, not for his personal need to make them pay. Ultimately, he knew that God was making all of them into a nation that, presently, hung in the balance. What he did, he did for God, not Himself.

I want to be skilled in shrewdness for the sake of the Your name.  Deliver me from the sin of personal vendettas so that I may rule wisely.  Amen

Published by

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s