The phrase “Be Cunning as Serpents and innocent as doves” makes me think hard to really understand and comprehends completely. Honestly, I always suspect that I never fully understand it.
These few words are somehow always related together with the parable of Shrewd Manager. Found in different book of the NT, seemingly unrelated, yet when placed to each other together. They are aligned and behind both stories tells a story about a higher principle at play.
Innocent as dove is easy to understand, innocent means faultless, not the villain nor the victim, a person who is not at blame when judgement is met out. However, when it is paired with “cunning as a serpent”, the sentences morph into something complicated. Two contrasting position, with opposite connotation. They opposes each other and makes the whole sentence hard to grasp immediately. How do I be cunning as a snake while innocent as a dove at the same time?
Cunningness is the ability to profit from a situation. The situation could be ad-hoc or manufactured by the person. He understands and is able to read human nature. The greedy, the frighten, the weak, the proud, the ambitious and use that these human desires to his advantage.
If someone is able to do that and yet not turn the situation to his personal advantage but changes it so that all parties emerges a better people. People who learnt something more about himself and from it, grows. Will that be as innocent as dove?
And in that light, the Shrewd Manager is able to understand human nature to reciprocate. He discounted the debtor payments, triggering the human nature to repay him even if the person may not like him.