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08-06-29 The Cynical Individual

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The Cynical Individual! 

Ecclesiastes 3:16-3:22

Text: Ecclesiastes 3:16-22 (King James Version)

"And moreover I saw under the sun the place of judgment, that wickedness was there; and the place of righteousness, that iniquity was there. (v. 17) I said in mine heart, God shall judge the righteous and the wicked: for there is a time there for every purpose and for every work. (v. 18) I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men, that God might manifest them, and that they might see that they themselves are beasts. (v. 19) For that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no preeminence above a beast: for all is vanity. (v. 20) All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again. (v. 21) Who knoweth the spirit of man that goeth upward, and the spirit of the beast that goeth downward to the earth? (v. 22) Wherefore I perceive that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his own works; for that is his portion: for who shall bring him to see what shall be after him?"

Topic: The Cynical Individual!

The world today is full of cynics - those individuals who are faultfinding critics and who adhere to the belief that human conduct is motivated entirely by self-interest!

Each and every one of us enjoys and loves a good story! We especially like stories that have neat and tidy endings! We do not mind if the story is a sad story - filled with hardship - just as long as there is justice in the end! We like for right to win and wrong to lose! We want the good people to come out on top and the bad people to wind up in jail! By way of illustration, let’s look at three (3) childhood fairy tales, shall we?

In the story of Humpty Dumpty, we were not bothered by the fact that all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, despite working feverishly, could not put Humpty Dumpty back together again! Part of the reason we could live with Humpty Dumpty’s situation was the realization that nobody pushed him off of that wall! That, in our opinion, would have been unfair and unjust treatment! After all, eggs have no way to defend themselves! Since nobody was to blame for Humpty Dumpty’s condition; and, since everybody from the king’s horses to the king’s men tried everything they could to help him out, we were able to tolerate the sad ending! His story may be unhappy; but, it is not unjust!

In the story of "Cinderella," we are told of a beautiful young woman who is raised in a cruel home by a cruel stepmother - with cruel stepsisters adding to her misery - no offence is intended toward stepmothers and stepsisters; for the majority of them are really good people! The beautiful young woman, after being taunted by her stepsisters, gets to go to the ball in the castle; however, at midnight, the carriage that carried her to the ball turned into a pumpkin; however, that was alright! We could live with that because she was warned ahead of time about the possibility of that happening! And, it was especially alright since, in the end, she got the "glass slipper" and lived happily ever after! Justice won out in the story! What we would not have been able to live with is if one of the cruel stepsisters had wound up with the "glass slipper!" That would not have been just! Cinderella’s foot deserved the "glass slipper!" We smile at such poetic justice!

Finally, there is the story of Robin Hood and his followers in Sherwood Forest! Robin Hood was the one who took from those who had far too much and gave it to those who did not have enough! We had to do a little ethical shuffling in this story - with the right and wrong of that - but, in our child’s mind, that was fair play! After all, the money and goods wound up in a better place than where they would have otherwise! The peasants certainly needed them more than the rich! So, we applauded the adventurous exploits of Robin Hood and his followers; because, we know that ultimately fairness prevailed - at least, that’s the way it seemed in our young little minds!

What we would not have tolerated was to discover later on that Robin Hood was really a con man with a numbered bank account in Switzerland, with all that money taken from the rich being deposited in his numbered account! We could not have handled his ripping off the peasants and building his own empire; then, secretly living in a mansion he built from the money that he siphoned off the rich - all the while playing the role of nice person!

Sad endings we can handle; but, not unjust endings! Suffering makes us sad; but, injustice makes us mad! In our childlike minds, we still long for fairness and equity! We still want stories to end well so that everyone can live happily ever after! However, I’m here to tell you, my brothers and sisters, that life is not that neat and tidy! It is only in fairy tales that we find right always triumphing! In life, the helpless are pushed around - cruel people often get the "glass slipper" - and, some of those who we thought were generous, unselfish givers, were in actuality greedy self-serving takers! If a person lives with injustice long enough, especially if that person lacks a Divine perspective, that person will become disillusioned; and, ultimately cynical!

Much of the journal of King Solomon - the Book of Ecclesiastes - in the Old Testament - in the Holy Bible - the written Word of Almighty God - can be described as the confessions of a cynic! We find King Solomon unwilling to look up in dependence upon Almighty God; and, too stubborn to bow his head in prayer! Do you remember the theme of his journal? Everything is barren, futile emptiness!

The man who is writing this journal - King Solomon - is not sad, he is mad! The injustices of life have taken their toll! So it is with each and every one of us! We can handle affliction and mistreatment as long as it has come to pass! But, if the pain persists and the hurt is not relieved, we become cynics! When get close to the edge of panic, we look up and cry out to Almighty God! If we do not have the faith to get us through such injustices, we simply die a cynic!

The late great American romantic poet, critic, satirist, diplomat, and abolitionist, James Russell Lowell (1819 - 1891), once said: "Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne." If life cannot be comfortable, at least it can be fair! In Ecclesiastes 4:1 (NIV), King Solomon tells us: "Again I looked and saw all the oppression that was taking place under the sun: I saw the tears of the oppressed - and they have no comforter; power was on the side of the oppressors - and they have no comforter." Can you feel the sigh in his words? There is something within humanity that longs for judicial justification! If someone is oppressed, there at least ought to be someone there to comfort!

In Ecclesiastes 5:8 (MSG), we are told: "Don’t be too upset when you see the poor kicked around, and justice and right violated all over the place. Exploitation filters down from one petty official to another. There’s no end to it, and nothing can be done about it." In Ecclesiastes 8:9 (MSG), King Solomon goes on to say: "All this I observed as I tried my best to understand all that’s going on in this world. As long as men and women have the power to hurt each other, this is the way it is."

The late great American educator and poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807 - 1882), in his poem, entitled, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day," describes the ambivalent feelings that we get when we are exposed to injustice:

***"And in despair I bowed my head:
***’There is no peace on earth,’ I said,
***’For hate is wrong, and mocks the song
***Of peace on earth, good-will to men.’"

So, tell me, preacher, "Does cynicism have a solution?"
For a rare moment, King Solomon looks above the sun! Injustice will only have a temporary reign! Relief is coming! Wrong will not last forever - why? Because it is going to be judged under the Sovereign hand of a just God! Injustice reveals our beastlike behavior! By living in an unjust world, without Almighty God, we become beastlike in our nature - beastlike in our actions - beastlike in our reactions - beastlike in our destiny! The realization and admission of this terrible fact, ought to convince us that we need help outside of ourselves - help "from above the sun!" Apart from that church, depravity knows no bounds! Just look at the world around you!

There is hope beyond cynicism! We do not need to try to understand our circumstances - we do not need to compare our lot with another person’s lot! We need not retaliate, we need not resent, we need not become bitter, because we did not get a fair shake! We need to replace passive self-pity with active courage! We need to quit whining "woe is me" and start thinking in terms of "Here is my message, world!"

As I start to close now, let me leave you with the story of the great American blind performer, author, and motivational speaker, Tom Sullivan (Born: 1947). He has made guest appearances, in 1976, on the television show "M*A*S*H" and on "Fame!" In 1977, he appeared in the film "Airport ’77!" In 1982, his biography was released as a drama motion picture entitled, "If You Could See What I Hear," based on his book, of the same name, which he wrote in 1975. He has appeared on the "Good Morning, America" show! He once said, "You’ve got a disadvantage? Take advantage of it! People do not buy similarity. They buy differences."

Finally, as I take my seat, let me leave you with the story of Almachius, also known as Telemachus, an eastern ascetic and monk, who was stoned to death - about 400 A.D. - by the crowd - when he tried to stop a gladiator fight in a Roman ampitheatre. Telemachus stared in disbelief as one gladiator after another stood before the emperor and declared, "We who are about to die salute thee!" He put his hands over his ears when he heard the clashing of swords and shields, as one man after another fought to his death!

Can you imagine the impact you could have if you counteracted your cynicism and self-pity by the power of Jesus, the Christ? Can you imagine the lives you could reach and strengthen simply by being all that you can be in Christ Jesus? Everybody has a story - you don’t know my story - and, I don’t know your story; however, if we will let Almighty God take complete control of our lives and direct our paths, we can all have the same ending!

The Cynical Individual!

May Almighty God richly and abundantly bless each and every one of you!

This sermon leans heavily on the work of Rev. Charles R. Swindoll, from his book entitled, Living on the Ragged Edge: Coming to Terms With Reality

Other sources:

1. "Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary," Eleventh Edition, c2004 Springfield, Massachusetts: Merriam-Webster, Incorporated, LCCN 2003-003674, ISBN 0-87779-807-9, p. 211.
2. "Life Application Study Bible," New International Version, c1997: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. and Zondervan Publishing House, LCCN 97-2367, ISBN 0-6423-4892-1, p. 1139.
3. "Living on the Ragged Edge: Coming to Terms With Reality," by Charles R. Swindoll, c1985 Minneapolis, Minnesota: By author, published, Minneapolis, Minnesota: Grason, LCCN 85-6296, ISBN 0-8499-0463-3, pp. 97-111.
4. "The Message: The Holy Bible in Contemporary Language," Numbered Edition, by Eugene H. Peterson, pp. 888 and 892.
5. "The New Scofield Study Bible," King James Version, edited by C.I. Scofield, c1967,1998 New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., pp. 827-828.
6. "www,," (James Russell Lowell), (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow), (Tom Sullivan), and (Telemachus).

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