“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” George Orwell

Friday, September 21, 2007

Being shrewd

The pastor of my church, Dr. Gary Inrig, gave a very interesting sermon last week about being shrewd (based upon Luke Chapter 16). I must admit that it was probably the first one I have ever heard on the topic, but it is something that more people should think about. One thing I have noted about Jesus himself is that he was shrewd in that he was never predictable. Just when someone thought they had him, he would come up with an answer or response that would totally surprise them. But he was not just clever in his answers, he was also shrewd.

We occasionally see Christians being shrewd. I remember when there was to be a huge Promise Keepers meeting in Washington D.C. one of the organizers was asked by an interviewer why Christian men should be trusted by women, be they Christian or not. His response was something to the effect, "You shouldn't trust us." The interviewers were surprised. "You should test what we say by what we do, by our actions." They were expecting some self righteous justification, he agreed with them and as a result, he scored points with them and the audience listening.

As I listened to the sermon, though, I must admit I got caught up in verse 15 of the passage. It says,

You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows
your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

Its true. We justify ourselves in the eyes of people, we look to the community for our approval too often, and at the very least, we look to the community for the methods we use in churches. There are too many business principles being applied to churches for my liking. Church growth can be come a formula. Finance campaigns can be slick. People are judged and valued on the basis of what they can contribute to the church. Jesus says that what is valued among men is detestable in God's sight.

So I should step back and look at my church to see the things that are valued by men as they might actually be detestable things. I might also reverse the proposition and step back and look at the things which we think are "detestable" or at least less desirable, or problem causing, or whatever our negative feelings are, and ask whether they might be something that God delights in.

Is the exclusion of people with minor social skill deficits (or major ones for that matter) something that is valued by men? Is is something that people typically do? Do churches, and pastors, and adults, and teens, and children reject people on the basis of social skills? Is this accepted practice in the church setting? It is definately accepted practice in the world of business or women's groups, or colleges, or high schools, or junior high schools, or elementary schools, or any other group. Social skills are definately something that is highly valued by people in the world.

But I want to be shrewd, by God's standards.

You know I have related this before in this blog, but I often wonder why I see the things that I do relative to people with disabilities and the church. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed as the saying goes, and I also guarantee you that I am not a particularly shrewd person. I amaze myself quite often with how clueless I often am. But I feel like I am an investor in the 1970's who has heard about this thing called Microsoft (I might have my years wrong, but stick with me). So I see this amazing opportunity. In this case it is not an opportunity to make money. It is an amazing opportunity to correct the course of a Christian church which has not been going in the right direction. It has been "off course" in many ways. I see this opportunity to be obedient to God in ways that the Church percieves as entirely new ways. I see this opportunity to really learn what love means through loving people who some consider difficult to love. I see this opportunity to serve people who haven't been served, and provide wonderful opportunities for service.

If you are shrewd perhaps you will see it too.




Anonymous said...

As a person with a very visable and permanent physical disability, I've realised over the years that people make assumptions about what I have to contribute before they've even met me or know anything about me other than what they can see (wheelchair and the usual physical deformities that come with my particular genetic disability).

Did it occur to anybody that rather than be all preoccupied about how much time or resources/service I may need from them that I may have service to offer them that they may not be able to receive from anyone else ?

I volunteered for many years on an Alzheimer/Dementia unit and realised before long those I served were providing me with an incredible and rare service themselves.

When I think of all the nonsense Jesus put up with I try to remember that it had to be. He picked his battles that's for sure but he did so also with the knowledge not only that the goal was the Atonement of all mankind but also his disciples were watching and learning how to handle such things once he was gone.

Steve Kimes said...

God bless you in your ministry. Jesus did say that being shrewd with God is giving serving and listening to the outcast and rejected. I pray that more may do this to obtain the blessings of God.

Steve K