Are Christians supposed to be shrewd or crafty?
Jesus tells us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. (Mat 10:16) In the Garden of Eden, the serpent was more cunning (crafty, subtle, shrewd) than any beast of the field. If the serpent or Satan was crafty, isn’t that bad?
The Hebrew word for cunning in Genesis 3:1 is usually translated as prudent. Proverb 1:4 states that one of the purposes of the proverbs was to give prudence (craftiness) to the simple. The Proverbs lists seven attributes of a prudent man. The prudent man is contrasted to a fool or a simple man.
|The Prudent||The Fool or the Simple||Proverb|
|Covers shame||Wrath is presently known||12:16|
|Conceals knowledge||Proclaims foolishness||12:23|
|Acts with knowledge||Lays open his folly||13:16|
|Understands his way||The folly of fools is deceit||14:8|
|Considers well his steps||Believes every word||14:15|
|Crowned with knowledge||Inherit folly||14:18|
|Foresees evil and hides himself||Pass on and are punished||22:3 & 27:12|
Prudence, craftiness, shrewdness is a godly characteristic. In fact, if one is not prudent, he is a fool or simple. The difference between a cunning serpent and a prudent Christian is harmlessness. The serpent used his cunning to harm man. Jesus tells us to be as harmless as doves. We use prudence to protect ourselves without harming others.
A prudent person does not reveal everything they know. This means that you do not always say what you know. Withholding information could be viewed as deceit. This thought can compel some to “tell-all” in order to avoid deceit. However, withholding information is not in itself deceit. In fact, Proverbs 12:23 says the prudent conceals knowledge. Jesus did not reveal everything to everyone. He spoke in parables to the multitudes to hide things from them.
A prudent person understands his way and uses knowledge to consider well his steps. The prudent also foresees evil and hides himself. He acts on his knowledge.
A prudent person acts discreetly. He covers shame and conceals knowledge. The fool lays open his folly. He lets the world know what he is thinking.
We should take heed to Jesus’ command and be wise (prudent) as a serpent.