You’ve heard me say this before if you’ve been reading a while: Being shrewd isn’t necessarily the same as being wise. And the reason is an evil man can be shrewd and calculating, but only a good man can be truly wise.
Now that doesn’t mean that shrewdness is always evil. Far from it. Our Lord told His disciples in Matthew 10:6 “…be wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” And He meant, be aware of your surroundings, be awake to consequences, and be on the look out for both danger and opportunity. That means that being a shrewd businessman or a shrewd politician, or even a shrewd leader may mean being a good steward of your gifts and your goals.
But this shrewdness must always be governed by love. The second it becomes self serving, it will always become evil. Always.
The truth is you and I have known the challenges of those whom we have experienced as “calculating” persons. I bet you can think of several instances in your life when someone was manipulative and self serving in their actions toward you. You may even be honest enough to remember when you were like that toward others. The truth is when “smart moves” become unloving and self serving, they always degenerate into broken trust and relationships. But isn’t that the way our human relationships always are? Our relationships aren’t nearly as neat and clean as most of us like to pretend.
And yet, because of our Orthodox Christian faith, we know that it is precisely relationships where our faith is suppose to transform us into Christ-like persons. It is in the crucible of relationships where the hardest work of being Orthodox on Purpose takes place. And there are going to be some messy times in that journey of lifelong relationships.
In our Gospel Lesson today, we see the Lord Jesus deal with some fairly messy relationships Himself. You’ve read here how “volatile” the Lord’s relationships were with the religious leaders of His day. They, for the most part, simply didn’t understand or agree with His ministry or His message. They felt He was a threat to their “status quo.” Of course, they were right about that last one. He was, and frankly still is, a threat to all ossified leadership that has forgotten the dynamics of love and have reduced leadership in the faith to mere shrewdness. Or reduced even our beautiful Orthodox faith to mere religion.
Look at our Gospel Lesson in Luke 20:1-8: At that time, as Jesus was teaching the people in the temple and preaching the gospel, the chief priests and the scribes with the elders came up and said to Him, “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” He answered them, “I also will ask you a question; now tell me, was the baptism of John from heaven or from men?” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men,’ all the people will stone us; for they are convinced that John was a prophet.” So they answered that they did not know whence it was. And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
As usual, the Lord is speaking out on the Truth and, because He speaks with such authority, the people listen to Him and follow His words. The religious leaders ask the Lord “By what authority are you doing all this?” Jesus, knowing their hearts, turns this around on them and questions their own insight into the very nature of authority. And the religious leaders, fearing the crowds, refuse to answer the Lord’s question. And so He responds “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” (Luke 20:8)
Notice, the Lord was so completely at peace with Himself, He felt no need to satisfy the self serving challenges of the religious leaders. He responded to their “shrewdness” with peace and with a clear revelation of who they really were, and Who He was for all to see.
Today, your inner spiritual discipline will create a clear sense of purpose and humility in your own heart. This internal work, diligently pursued, will serve you when you face the messy times in any relationship. This consistent spiritual development in your own heart; this seeing to your own sins and putting your best energies toward your devotion to Christ, will equip you to both be aware of those around you and to love them enough to refuse to be captured by their fears and their selfish needs. It will also set you free to actually be in healthy relationships that both reveal your own spiritual needs and the needs of the other without shame or condemnation. Sounds like heaven, doesn’t it? That’s because it is!
Today, is your inner sense of self so mature and well formed as to allow you the freedom to be at peace in your interactions with others? Or, do you find yourself “calculating” how to manipulate the situation to be in your favor? Do your words and actions carry the “authority” of servanthood and love? Or do you find yourself “adjusting” your words to “fit” the people you are speaking to? Hard questions, to be sure. But this is the only path to a lifestyle of true repentance and true freedom in the authority of love. This is the only path to being Orthodox on Purpose.
P.S. Did you know you can now “hear” these daily devotionals? Yep, everyday you can hear the daily devotional by going to http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/faithencourageddaily and you can even set up your ITunes account to dowload the devotionals every day! Share this with a friend and help them use this daily tool to keep our eyes focused on Christ!