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Bedford, Texas, United States
Pastor of Woodland Heights Baptist Church in Bedford, Texas and former Professor of Old Testament. But mostly I am a husband of an amazing wife, father of gifted children, and servant of an AWESOME God.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Bah Humbug…One of a Christian’s Most Dangerous Attitudes – Cynicism

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. (Galatians 6:9, ESV)

As a child, Ebenezer Scrooge always puzzled me. Why was he so angry? How could he not see the opportunities for joy and fun around him? What does Bah Humbug even mean and where on earth did the expression come from?

As I have grown older I have come to see the answers to many of these questions. Life experience and personal interactions have a tendency to harden the heart. People aren’t true to their word; a giving spirit is more often taken advantage of than appreciated; every man seems to be out for themselves. In short, experience has a tendency to rob one of a sense of wonder and trust. Given enough time, most people will become a cynic.

Such an outcome is understandable on many levels and in many circumstances, but for the believer, it is the very antithesis of who we are called to be. Instead of giving to the poor and needy , we cynically proclaim that “they wouldn’t be in this circumstance if they just worked harder;” or that they are “just takers.” Instead of showing forgiveness or asking for forgiveness, we distance ourselves, lest we get burned again or people sue us (either literally or emotionally) for our wrong actions. Instead of sharing our faith with the lost, we keep it to ourselves because deep down we don’t believe people really change. Cynicism robs us of our capacity to truly give and to be the salt and light God called us to be.

How do we battle letting cynicism take root?

- Develop a Proper view of God – The root of our cynicism is not found in a lack of faith in humanity, but a lack of faith in God. Instead of claiming we are being good stewards with God’s money, we need to recognize that it indeed is God’s money and that He who provided it in the first place is fully capable of taking care of it in the future. Instead of fearing being taken advantage of or sued, we need to trust God to take care of us. Instead of doubting the sincerity of people’s decisions, we need to trust God’s ability to change them.

- Nurture a proper view of what God has done for us – The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matt 18:23-35) demonstrates the true nature of the balance of debt we owe God in comparison to the amount of debt any individual could ever incur toward us. Knowing of such an imbalance is not enough however, we need to nurture and feed that knowledge through developing a healthy theology of sin and Grace.

- Renew our view of the Now and Not Yet – Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 6:9 is built upon an expectation of blessing. The Psalmist’s resolution of his concerns over the apparent injustice of evil being awarded came when he entered into worship and caught a glimpse of God’s justice (Psalm 73, esp verse 17). Jesus’ call to die to ourselves includes the hope of what happens ultimately to those who value eternity over the temporal (Matthew 16.24- 27). It seems to me, then, that part of what we are missing in our thought-life that lends itself to remaining tenderhearted in the now, is a fervent belief in what will happen in the future!

I struggle with cynicism. But when I reflect upon the gift of the Father during this Christmas season and the complete expression of Hope that is found in the Savior lying in a manger, I can’t help but be convicted that I am called to move beyond such a perspective. Paul’s words in Galatians 6:9 suggest that doing the right thing can be wearying, but they also proclaim that God has given us multiple resources to draw on to find refreshment – not the least of which being Himself.

Hopefully as I grow even older I will move beyond my knowledge of the reasons for cynicism into an expressive understanding of how to overcome it. Living it out will take work, but knowing I serve a God who gave His all to me, even while I was in rebellion against Him, is a start.

Now if I could just figure out where Scrooge got, “Bah Humbug” from!

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