I recently had to go back to my trusty dictionary to look up an all too familiar word. I was surprised at the primary definition, as it really was not my first impression of the word. The word I sought out was "cynic". The primary definition is a person who believes that only selfishness motivates human actions and who disbelieves in or minimizes selfless acts or disinterested points of view. I thought a cynic was a nay-sayer - one who just opposed things because they had a genuinely "sour" disposition! Maybe it was even a person who just had been "burnt" so many times they no longer believed things to be possible.
6 Cynics look high and low for wisdom—and never find it; the open-minded find it right on their doorstep! (Proverbs 14:6 The Message)
Now, in light of the "true" definition, let's unpack our passage today.
Cynics - those who think human beings are basically motivated by selfish actions - have a hard time finding wisdom. Those who cannot entertain an opposing point of view have a hard time coming to a place of learning from their experiences - therefore, they also have a hard time learning so as to gain wisdom. Solomon tells us the cynic looks high and low. They are on a quest - it is just something they have a hard time finding! This means the cynic is not really "disinterested" totally in finding wisdom - just having a hard time wrapping their hands around it because they have a basic "bent" which causes them to not realize it is right in front of them!
Know anyone who fits this type of personality type? Always suspicious of the actions of another - believing they must be doing whatever it is they are doing in order to gain something for themselves. This makes for a miserable view of life. To believe all action - both human and divine - is centered in selfish ambition almost minimizes any action of love or grace. It also makes for a life in which trust is elusive.
No wonder they struggle with finding wisdom! Wisdom has a basis in trust - you have to experience knowledge in such a manner so as to develop a trust in it. For example, if you open a package of meat, only to be encountered with an odd smell, you might not "trust" this meat is fit for consumption. What led you to this conclusion? Perhaps it was the "smell" of rotting garbage you experienced on a hot summer day when you lifted the lid of your outside trash receptacle to throw away something. That pungent smell left an impression of something being "rotten" and not good for eating! Now, when you open the package of meat, a little off-color in appearance, the "smell" confirms your suspicion - it is rotten!
What happened when you lifted the trash can lid? You developed a memory of the "bad smell" and equated it with "garbage". What happened when you opened the package of spoiled meat? You "recalled" the memory. When you threw the package of spoiled meat in the trash instead of consuming it, you were exercising wisdom (practical application of knowledge).
The cynic has a hard time with wisdom because they stop short of applying the knowledge. Why? Perhaps it is the past experience the cynic has had with "knowledge" of some sort. If they reached out to take a pretty flower into their hand and were stung by a bee the first time they did this, they likely would not "trust" flowers to be safe and enjoyable again! We "filter" all kinds of things through our minds and form memories of them in some fashion. Those memories go a long way in helping us interpret new "knowledge" as it comes our way. Right or wrong - we apply what we came to believe by our past experience and interpret all of life through that perspective.
The cynic is best served by learning to trust afresh. The second part of our verse does not just speak of the wise - it speaks of the hope a cynic has in learning to open their mind to a new perspective in life. Not every "memory" of life is a good one to trust. We need the wisdom of Christ to help us sort out the ones which actually keep us from experiencing all the good in life God has prepared for his kids. When we come to Christ with open minds, he delights in filling them with "memories" which we can trust!