Exodus 1:10 | Unselfishly Shrewd

Wisdom is usually thought of as a good thing but wisdom can also be abused. The word I would use to describe wisdom abused is “shrewd”. A shrewd manager for example would be someone that is a smart manager but maybe uses that smartness to an unfair advantage. Shrewd brings with it a hint of the devious. The book definition of shrewdness is good judgement that results in an advantage so my definition is too narrow. Shrewd can be a good advantage as well as a devious advantage. The Egyptian King in Exodus chapter one makes a judgment based in the devious shrewdness.

10 Come, we must deal shrewdly with [the Hebrews] or they will become even more numerous and, if war breaks out, will join our enemies, fight against us and leave the country.” Exodus 1:10 ESV

These people living in Egypt have grown in number and the king has become afraid of what damage they could cause if war broke out. That is a reasonable fear for a king to think about but the second half of his thought betrays his greed to keep the Israelites when he says he does not want them to “leave the country”. Because of this desire to keep them as a benefit to his society the author states that the king wanted to deal shrewdly with them.

The result is that the king came up with a plan of selfish advantage. That plan specifically was to require the midwives to secretly kill any baby boys as they are born. That would be a very shrewd plan indeed. Fortunately, it was not executed very well.

19 The midwives answered Pharaoh, “Hebrew women are not like Egyptian women; they are vigorous and give birth before the midwives arrive.” 20 So God was kind to the midwives and the people increased and became even more numerous. Exodus 1:19-20 ESV

While the king wanted to be shrewd the midwives in response were also shrewd and responded with a lie to cover their own rebellion against his order. The midwives used wise judgment (including lies) toward an advantage. Where the king was acting in selfish advantage the midwives acted in unselfish disadvantage. Their lie could have cost them their jobs or even their lives to do the right moral thing. Because of that unselfish act God blessed the midwives.

While shrewdness seems negative on the face it is not always the case which brings me to a command from Jesus to the disciples that has always been intriguing to me. Jesus commands the disciples to be shrewd but he explains the principle used by the midwives in Exodus.

16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. 17 Be on your guard; you will be handed over to the local councils and be flogged in the synagogues. Matthew 10:16-17 ESV

The power structure was out to get Jesus (evidenced by his crucifixion on trumped up charges) and Jesus tells the disciples to be smart in their interactions with kings and rulers. Shrewd as snakes is clearly descriptive of the Egyptian king. If he was afraid of the Israelites rising up but still wanted their service in his land then secretly killing boys would qualify as being shrewd as snakes.

Yet look at the second half what Jesus told the disciples. Jesus asked them to also be as innocent as doves and this idea is perfectly represented by the midwives and their actions to defend against the evil request of the king. They lied to the king in an unselfish disadvantage. They took a risk to be shrewd yet they did it innocently. Christ sends his sheep into the world to share the good news that Jesus will restore for us the relationship with our Creator. The good news is that Jesus saves. It is my charge from Jesus to be shrewd about how I interact with those that are hostile. But the shrewdness Jesus demands must be innocent and unselfish toward all.

Genesis 3:6 | Wisdom of Fools


Sometimes I am tempted to think I am smarter and cleverer than my ancestors. I have multiple degrees. If there is any project that I want to accomplish I have information and resources to accomplish that project. I am basically a good person. I have it all together. When I read about how Satan smoothly sold Eve on eating from the tree of knowledge I shake my head as if I have not done the same and even worse.

6 So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:6 ESV

The truth is that I am not any smarter and I am not any less a sinner than Eve was. Fact is that I am even worse off because I should know better yet here I am buying the same lies. Genesis states that Eve desired the fruit of the tree so that she could be wise. Just like Eve I spend time learning wisdom at Satan’s footstool. The world calls to all of us. The world says sex should be unfettered. The world says you got to take what is yours and not let others get in your way. The world says do what makes you happy. The world says you can have it all. People in our capitalistic society are referred to as consumers. Satan sold Eve, the first consumer, on a way that she could be wise like God. There is just one problem with all of our ambition and the lie that the world is selling. It is not true knowledge of any worth.

14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. James 3:14-16 ESV

Eve found that knowledge the world sells and became wise in “earthly, unspiritual, demonic” ways. Our first parents unleashed disorder after their selfish desire for wisdom was complete. Knowing good and evil is one thing but securing wisdom from God himself comes in a different way.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Psalms 32:8 ESV

Eve missed a fundamental when she tried to short cut her way to wisdom. She missed the fact that wisdom comes from a relationship with God and she already had that. God was instructing her. God was teaching her. And God was providing his wisdom a perfect wisdom to her in their daily interactions. But she discounted that source and went for the cheap knockoff.

People today are not any smarter or cleverer than our ancestors because we want wisdom but seek it apart from God. We eat of the fruit that the world offers and our lives are destroyed. We are wise in jealousy, manipulation, lies, selfish ambition, and demonic perversions. Yes we love our perversions.

2 To know wisdom and instruction, to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; … 7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction. Proverbs 1:2-3;7 ESV

If you want true wisdom. Wisdom that comes from the Creator of this universe then the beginning of that knowledge is a respectful fear and submission to God that very same God who created us to have a relationship. Jesus is our point of contact. Turn to him for real truth and wisdom. Or continue to buy the fake knockoff that Satan sells when you want wisdom without God. God gives you that choice, but he will not hide you from the consequences.

16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV


Giving up on You


Who am I as a Christian? Am I a Conservative Christian? Blessed (materially) Christian? American Christian? Bible Believing Christian? Family first Christian?

Paul in his Letter to the church at Corinth provides some insight into the approach he took when preaching to this wealthy, hedonistic, and idolatrous merchant city.

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2 ESV

Paul could have come as an orator with lofty speech. Certainly he was trained to be that. In fact that is how Paul approached the people of Athens and their stoic philosophers (Acts 17). Paul is the intellectual elite of his day. He has all the privilege of the ruling class and the discipline to be successful at it.

If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless. Philippians 3:4-6 ESV

What confidence do I as a Christian today have in the flesh? I am wealthy (relatively speaking). I never hunger because food is not available or too expensive. Income is possible for me through several avenues even though the economy is not that great. I have the right to defend myself and my home, but I live in a low crime area where the government has provided reasonable law and order (relatively speaking). Basically I can live without fear of those around me. It is no effort or sacrifice to be Christian daily in my community (however I notice some isolated individuals who have lost their job or business because of Christ). I have much to be confident in the flesh. I am highly educated and believe myself to be above average intelligence. Is there anything I can’t do if I put my mind and labor to it? Can I set aside all of that to be a Christian who knows only Christ?

Paul comes not with self-help and categories of Christian. He does not come and divide the people into groups based on the color of their skin, how blessed they have been, or if they work harder than everyone else. He sets all that aside and says he has come to know nothing before them but Christ crucified. Did you follow all of God’s rules? Great. Did live a life of selfish pleasure? Fine, but now come together and see that we are all are dying not living because this world will end. Christ and Christ Crucified alone brings life to these petty identifiers and the short life on Earth.

Maybe you know someone who talks about Jesus too much? Are they annoying and unbearable? Maybe they are or maybe you are seeking the approval and pleasure of this world a little too much? Maybe someone calling you Christian with no other identifier is just unbearable? If God tells you that being black is of no consequence and to leave that heritage behind could you do it? If he tells you to walk away from the gay life style because Christ first is more important would you pause to even consider? What if God called you to walk away from the grievance of “white genocide” and not be concerned with maintaining the “white race”? Could you know nothing but Christ Crucified? Is it possible to walk away from being a Republican or a Democrat and be simply Christian? If Christ called could Tiger Woods walk away from golf? The answer is yes because Paul did just that. If you are saved by Christ then life is where he calls and draws us. What Hillary calls irredeemable and Romney calls the 47% can become children of the King before Christ. Paul walked away from the Jewish and Roman privilege he had enjoyed all his life. God changed his name from Saul to Paul and he became a suffering servant called by God to speak the gospel of Christ. Why did Paul give up all of his strength and approach the Corinthians so humbly?

5 so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 ESV

Paul the intellectual elite with wealth and power could have written books and done all the talk shows extoling his strategies for being perfect at anything in this life. But he did not do this in the city of Corinth. He wanted the Corinthians to be persuaded that faith, power, and wisdom comes only from who they are in Christ. Power comes from God and God alone. Power of the flesh no matter how privileged or educated is weakness in service to God.

When I was saved a miracle happened. The Creator God of the universe intervened in my march to eternal death and gave me new life in Christ. I was nothing and had no ambitions. Raised in a single parent home I had the freedom to be a deviant in all kinds of criminal ways. I had the freedom to fail out of school. I had the desire and the ability to be selfishly depraved and would have been content to be hidden away with nothing. Christ has called me into the public. He has acted in me to lead others. He pulls me out of my selfishness to serve him in ways that are beyond my natural ability or desire. It is supernatural and it is a faith that rests not in me, my heritage, my country, or my politics but in the power of God.

Paul wanted the Corinthians to place Christ and his priorities first. Paul wanted them to humbly submit to God and like Christ who has gone before choose the plans of God. Father I pray “not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:36 ESV)

Then once we have humbly submitted to God and forsaken the identifiers and the wisdom of this temporary age Christ is able to live through us in the power of God. Paul becomes one of the most influential figures in all of history because Christ lives through him. Countless others throughout history have impacted world in a positive way that points to Christ because they gave up their own ambitions and their own identifiers and recognized them for what they are. Tools and things of this world to be used in service to Christ.


Ecclesiastes. It is a very odd book and stands out from the rest of the bible.

The title Ecclesiastes is and odd word also. Apparently it is a Latin transliteration of the Greek title for the book and the Greek title is a translation of the original Hebrew. The meaning is to Assemble or Gather. So imagine a wise individual assembling a class to teach them about how the world works. The real nitty-gritty practical stuff. I imagine the wise professor gathering the class about to graduate and saying something like “Class today in practical terms we are going to talk about how most of the things in life, specifically your perception of life is just a waste of time.”

Then I said in my heart, “What happens to the fool will happen to me also. Why then have I been so very wise?” And I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise as of the fool there is no enduring remembrance, seeing that in the days to come all will have been long forgotten. How the wise dies just like the fool! So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind. Ecclesiastes 2:15-17 ESV

Ecclesiastes really has some hard and sobering questions about the script that you have written for yourself and what you will do in life. It strikes right at our finite mortality forcing us to realize that this life is temporary. I challenge you to spend time in the Bible this week and read Ecclesiastes, become familiar with what God wants you to take away from this book.

There are many choice parts of Ecclesiastes to quote from, but one that has kind of haunted or challenged me more than others is from 7:2…

It is better to go to the house of mourning than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart. Ecclesiastes 7:2 ESV

You learn more at a funeral than at a feast—After all, that’s where we’ll end up. We might discover something from it. Ecclesiastes 7:2 MSG

The Teacher is telling me that it is better to go to a funeral than a party? On the face of that statement I am cringing because the last place I want to be is at a funeral, however on closer inspection the Teacher is reminding the students that all their striving and all their money will not go with them. Dave Ramsey the financial talk guy on the radio frequently says “I have never seen a U-Haul following a hearse”.

There is some hope provided in Ecclesiastes, but that hope is limited because the author is still waiting for Jesus to be revealed.

I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man. Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 ESV

While the best hope of Ecclesiastes is to be joyful in the toil of this land. We know that through Jesus we have a hope of salvation because Jesus has told us where the end of this life takes us.

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. 1 Timothy 4:10 ESV