We see Jesus saying at Luke 16:8 (NRSVCE)

".. And his master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly; for the children of this age are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than are the children of light."

We also see Jesus instructing his disciples at Matthew 10:16 (NIV)

" I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."

I wish to know what exactly Jesus meant by `shrewdness '. Was it practical wisdom, futuristic sight or some other desirable quality ? What does the Catholic Church say about the said teachings of the Lord ?

  • 3
    Does this really need to be scoped to Catholicism? Why not ask this at Biblical Hermeneutics?
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 7:41
  • 2
    @curiousdannii FWIW, the parable of the dishonest steward was the Sunday Gospel reading yesterday and every 3 years it confuses everyone. So it's not terribly surprising someone would want a concrete Catholic scoped answer to this question right now.
    – Peter Turner
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 17:31
  • 1
    I remember a rabbi once taught to be clever when dealing with enemies or people or people(that may be) trying to get one over on you, but be simple with God.
    – barlop
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 0:08

2 Answers 2


The Rheims translation says (Vulgate translation and Greek in parentheses):

Luke 16:8
And the lord commended the unjust steward, forasmuch as he had done wisely (prudenter, φρονίμως): for the children of this world are wiser (prudentiores, φρονιμώτεροι) in their generation than the children of light.


Matthew 10:16
Behold I send you as sheep in the midst of wolves. Be ye therefore wise (prudentes, φρόνιμοι) as serpents and simple as doves.

Prudens means "foreseeing, foreknowing", and φρόνιμος means "in one's right mind, in one's senses".

St. Thomas explains this prudence/wisdom in his commentary on Matthew 10:

Be ye wise. The prudence of a serpent consists in that it always wishes to defend its head. The head is Christ, whom He commands them to serve. Hence: “I have fought a good fight: I have finished my course: I have kept the faith” (II Tim. 4, 7). Likewise, they ought to guard the Head, because it is the principle of the whole (I Cor. 11, 3);23 “With all watchfulness keep thy heart” (Prov. 4, 23). Likewise, there is another prudence of a serpent, that when it grows old, it passes through a narrow hole and sheds its vesture, or skin; so we ourselves ought to do in relation to our manner of living. And the Apostles says: “Stripping yourselves of the old man with his deeds,” etc., (Col. 3, 9). Moreover, we ought to have a serpent’s prudence in preaching, because, as it is stated in Gen. 3, on account of the serpent’s shrewdness, the human race was cast down, because he attacked the weaker sex. Likewise, he showed her a tree. So preachers ought to convert sinners through the most apt means. Similarly, they ought to exhort concerning the tree of the Cross, so that just as the devil derived benefit from a tree for an evil end, so these men ought to derive benefit from the tree of the Cross for a good end.

  • Liddell & Scott give 'be minded' for φρονέω, the root verb. Thayer gives 'direct one's mind to a thing'.
    – Nigel J
    Commented Sep 23, 2019 at 19:07

Piper addresses this particular question: Does Jesus Commend Dishonesty in Luke 16? // Ask Pastor John

The idea is, the guy gets fired.

He cuts deals with the debtors "so when he is jobless, they will help him out."

The master thinks this is "clever/shrewd."


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .