By: Donald Ward – Elder, United Church of God

Society has been trained to be cynical. No one trusts anyone else. We are continually reminded of our dishonesty. Leaders in virtually every institution you can name have had suspicion cast on their behavior. We have been taught to lampoon and poke fun at time-honored traditions and values. Nothing is sacred—everyone and everything is fair game for critical review. Unbridled criticism is the precursor of cynicism.

Are you cynical? Do you sit in the seat of the scornful (Psalms 1:1)? The Free Dictionarydefines cynicism as an attitude of scornful or jaded negativity, especially a general distrust of the integrity or professed motives of others. One of the key words in the definition is the word “motive,” which can be defined as the reason and cause for one’s actions. The cynic believes that actions taken by organizations, and/or individuals are based on ulterior motives.

Is it any wonder that cynicism is one of the nation’s deadliest diseases?

Within the Church of God, we’ve had so many ups and downs in recent years that it would be easy to take up a seat with the scornful. But cynicism is a very insidious affliction and will result in eternal death unless we repent of it. For some people, cynicism is part of their being—their psychological make-up. They have a need to be cynical and critical in order to feel complete.

Cynicism is in fact a form of self-righteousness, in that the cynic always knows a better way. If the cynic were in charge, we wouldn’t be where we are today. The cynic criticizes and becomes bitter in his heart.

Respecting the Messenger

What would it take for you to become cynical and sit in the seat of the scornful? God’s Word says, “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful” (Psalms 1:1). The Hebrew word translated as “scornful” means to talk boastfully, to mock and to deride. It is the equivalent of cynical. God pronounces a blessing on the man that does not sit in the seat of the scornful—in the seat of the cynic.

But sadly, the pages of the Bible are filled with men who sat in the seat of the scornful and became cynical. God identifies these people in Jude’s epistle to the Church of God. “Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousand of His saints, ‘to execute judgment on all, to convict all who are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have committed in an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things which ungodly sinners have spoken against Him.’ These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage” (Jude 14-16).

One major reason people become cynical is because they perceive that there are double standards at work. Yet there will be double standards as long as humans are in the flesh. By contrast, there are no double standards with God. The standards of God and Jesus Christ as revealed in the Word of God do not change. He is faithful. With Him there is no variation nor shadow of turning (James 1:17).

Paul wrote, “Let God be true and every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). In other words, the truth of God (the faithfulness of God) does not change because of the actions of men.

Will you let the actions or words of imperfect men take your crown? It’s a terrible irony that for a cynic, it is often the very person or situation they are cynical about who takes their crown. They become so cynical that they cannot separate the Word of God from the messenger. It can be easy to think that if the messenger is imperfect, it nullifies the message. Jesus’ detractors used this tactic against Him. They called him illegitimate and accused him of being demon-possessed.

But when the Word of God is spoken and you hear it, you had better take heed. Isaiah wrote down the proper view of His Word: “For all those things My hand has made, and all those things exist,” Says the Lord. “But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, and who trembles at My word” (Isaiah 66:2).

You may not respect the messenger, but you had better respect the message—the Word of God. Cynicism toward the messenger can be forgiven if repented of, but to be cynical toward God’s message is to flirt with the unpardonable sin.

Respecting the Message

In each generation, people think that if God were to speak to them, they would listen. But when the Living Word was on the earth and speaking directly to them, they would not listen and take heed. Christ warned the cynical Pharisees to clean up their act—to stop trying to impute evil motives, to stop trying to trap Him (Matthew 23:29-33).

Time after time they came to Him with a statement, or a question filled with double meaning. “Master, we know,” or “the law says”; “show us a sign”; “by what power…” They were speaking cryptically, with hidden meanings. They spoke with nuance and innuendo, saying one thing, but meaning another. God’s warning against double talk is very clear: “But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your ‘Yes,’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No,’ lest you fall into judgment” (James 5:12).

Love of God

Another reason people become cynics is because they have not developed a loving, sincere relationship with God and Jesus Christ. They allow the various ups and downs of organizations and men stand in their way. And sadly, oftentimes they are looking for an excuse to criticize and justify their actions. But we must never allow any excuse, reason, or cause to separate us from being faithful to our covenant relationship with God and Christ.

When you repent of your sins, are convicted of the truth by the Spirit and Word of God, are baptized, and exercise faith in the sacrifice of Christ for remission of sin, you enter into a covenant with God and Christ. You make the commitment to crucify the flesh and live by the Word of God. If you persevere and finish the race, a crown awaits you in the resurrection.

Cynicism’s Insidious Results

In the first chapter of Job, Satan comes before the throne of God. God asks Satan if he has considered His servant Job, who He says fears God and shuns evil. Satan replies: “Yes, Job fears God, but not without good reason!…But take away everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face!” (Job 1:9, Job 1:11, New Living Translation). In other words, Satan cynically accuses Job of serving God because of ulterior motives.

Satan’s cynicism began long before the days of Job. He was at the very throne of God as the anointed cherub that covered (Ezekiel 28:14-17). He looked at his self-perceived importance, beauty and wisdom, and said in his heart that he shouldn’t play second fiddle to anyone in the universe. Revelation 12 reveals that he drew one third of the angels with him in his rebellion. Rebellion can be caused by dropping words of doubt and by becoming cynical and bitter.

After Cain murdered his brother because of jealousy, God asked him, “Where is your brother?” Cain cynically replied: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). But God clearly instructs throughout His word that we are our brother’s keeper. And we should love one another fervently with no ulterior motives. Note the words of the apostle Peter, “Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart” (1 Peter 1:22).

Cynicism Can Be Defeated

All the enemies of faith can be defeated. And every excuse for being cynical can be conquered. We can develop the same mindset that is in Jesus Christ. In fact, we are exhorted to have the same mindset as Jesus Christ and follow his example (Philippians 2:5).

Having the mind of Christ begins with examining ourselves in God’s spiritual mirror. We can hide the Word of God in our hearts and meditate on it. We can control our thought patterns and focus on the things that edify, exhort and comfort.

We can follow the admonition given by the apostle Paul, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).


 “Cynicism: An Enemy to Defeat” ©2023 United Church of God, an International Association


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