From “Growing in the character of a disciple”: Chapter 9 – What is ‘the love of the truth’ and why does truth matter so much to God?
We have looked at what it is to be without guile or to be guileless. What then is the sin of guile and how does it differ from shrewdness, which is a good quality? To be shrewd does not require a person to be cunning, devious, crafty or manipulative. Far from it.
A shrewd person is one who can correctly discern the character, intentions and motives of other people. A shrewd person is therefore harder to deceive. He does not overlook, or fail to appreciate, facts or events. He sees what is really going on and what people are doing and he weighs them up quickly and accurately.
But none of that is sin. None of it requires the shrewd person to have any guile. A person who operates with guile will feel free to trick, manipulate, deceive and exploit other people. He says one thing and means another. He hides his real intentions. He takes advantage of other people’s ignorance or lack of discernment. He is insincere and crafty and he uses people.
Therefore guile and shrewdness are very different things and are manifested by very different types of person. We should want very much to be shrewd, but not to use any guile in achieving that shrewdness. The ability to see the deceit and falseness in others does not require us to display those same sinful characteristics ourselves.