Skip to main content

Cynically Challenged?

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!


Popular posts from this blog

Your full attention, please

My mother frequently uses the term "Listen to me!" as a way of getting my attention so that I actually stop, pay close attention, and hear out whatever her idea or issue is at the moment. It isn't always at the most convenient moment, nor is it always easy for her to get out whatever it is she wants to share. Yet, it is important enough for her to ask to for me to hear it, so I respond with, "I'm listening, mom", and she begins.  It isn't said in anger or in a moment of disappointment. Rather, these words are usually spoken in a "sing-song" manner, but with very specific intent - they are intended to get me to REALLY listen to what she was saying. Why? Because she knows she has something to say even if it is getting harder for her to say it! She has walked through much already, learned many lessons, and has the advantage of experience on her side, but the disadvantage of advancing age makes it harder and harder for her to actually form those t…

Getting at the heart of it all

Have you ever seen someone so good with their skinning knife they can just peel away the hide of an animal without a rip or tear, no waste of any of the meat just below that skin? I have seen some fishermen able to fillet their catch with such skill not even one bone is found in the fillet. How do they learn this skill? I think it comes to them through practice and with the employment of the right 'tool' to do the job at hand. There is comfort in knowing that God means what he says and his Word will come to pass. His Word is like the scalpel in the skilled hands of a surgeon or the knife in the hands of the skilled hunter. As a nurse, I have seen the skillful use of the scalpel - dissecting away the finest of tissue to protect the healthy tissue and to expose the tissue that has become devitalized by disease or decay. I have also seen the damage done by a "blade" in the hands of one not trained or at all skilled in its use. The difference is beyond description.

God m…

Be a little salt

Ever wonder why Jesus left his disciples with the idea of being 'salt on this earth'? We don't fully appreciate salt these days because we aren't as accustomed to how it was used during the times Jesus spoke those words. We often have to put ourselves into the culture where the words are being recorded in order to fully comprehend the significance of their meaning. In the days of the disciples, salt was a basic "staple" of life. It was that which acted as "preservation" for everything. It also was the main seasoning of the dishes prepared - although there were other spices, salt was a 'staple'. Perhaps we would do well to look at some of the other functions of salt in order to see what Jesus may have meant when he referred to our lives a salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of the earth.

"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltin…