Hello friends! This is Angie and we’re in Matthew 22 today!
As I read this chapter in Matthew, I was struck by a theme that seems to mark this entire chapter. It actually begins at the end of Chapter 21, where we are told the Pharisees began to look for a way to arrest Jesus. Jesus responded to them with a parable to start chapter 22. The next four sub-titles in chapter 22 all begin with a similar theme….
Verses 15, 23, 34, and 41 all mention the efforts of the Pharisees and the Sadducees to entrap and destroy Jesus.
Are you a skeptical person? When you hear something, are you quick to doubt it? Are you cautious, careful, skeptical until you discover facts? I’m skeptical about some things too. When I receive an email from someone and they say they’re in Africa and that they would like to bless me with 5 million dollars from their late husband’s estate, and all I need to do is to give them my bank account information and my social security number—I’m skeptical. I simply don’t believe it.
We live in a skeptical culture, and with good reason. There are all kinds of schemes out there, making all kinds of extreme claims and ridiculous guarantees. All promise happiness but really are meant to kill, steal, and destroy. If we trust everyone and don’t use critical thinking, someone will take advantage of us. We do need to be careful. Cautious. In some cases, skeptical. We can’t believe everything.
On the other hand, our healthy caution can turn the corner into unhealthy fear, and our doubts can lead to obsessions. When that happens, we can actually fall into the trap of cynicism. We move from critical thinking to toxic thinking, from eternal hope to crushing doubt.
That’s what happened to the Sadducees and the Pharisees. They weren’t skeptics. They were cynics. They didn’t just have reservations about Jesus, they believed the worst about Him and were determined to destroy him.
I love these clear definitions about the differences between these two in an article on LinkedIn entitled, “Skeptic versus Cynics. Know which are Toxic?” Here’s what the article suggested:
(Quote) “Skeptics like to look at data. They like to analyze. They like to assess. Skeptics like to weigh and measure and draw their own conclusions.
Cynics, on the other hand, are toxic. At a fundamental level they don’t believe in goodness. Cynics don’t believe in the capability of other people to overcome, to rise up, and to achieve.
Skeptics look for holes in your idea because they want to help you plug those holes. Cynics look for holes so they can make them bigger and sink your idea.
Skeptics ask questions to try to make your idea better. Cynics ask questions to try to make you look stupid or incompetent.
Skeptics have the “meeting after the meeting” to find ways to get past their doubts so they can jump onboard. Cynics have the “meeting after the meeting” to tear down the idea so no one is onboard.” (End Quote)
Friends, I see a lot of people caught up in skepticism these days that has dangerously bled into cynicism. It’s so easy to be motivated by our own self-interest and act in less than honorable ways to try and get what we want, what we think is right, to serve ourselves and our positions.
We are all good at the sin of omission: not admitting but omitting ourselves—we aren’t doing sinful behaviors, we are not in that place, someone else is. Turning the spotlight off ourselves and onto the behavior of others. Cynicism can become sin-a-cism. We all should take a step back and ask the Lord to show us where we land. The world is so distracting and overwhelming right now that we might not even realize we have shifted towards an unhealthy place.
The difference between healthy skepticism and toxic cynicism comes down to one word: motivation.
The Sadducees and Pharisees were motivated to prove they were right and Jesus was wrong. For the most part, they refused to acknowledge that Jesus was the promised Savior spoken of in centuries past. For the most part, they rejected His teachings. They even rejected His miracles—miracles that were literally happening all around them—convinced it was the devil working through Him. They were determined to eliminate Jesus at all costs.
Here is why cynicism in Christian circles is toxic: Christian cynics poison the Church and distort the Gospel of Jesus. Christian cynics push for division, not unity. Christian cynics care only about being right, not light.
Friends, we all must guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. We all must renew our minds every day, digging into His Word and pushing back against toxicity with the truth of the Gospel. Our motivation should always reflect the heart of Jesus…to make His name known on earth as it is in heaven. As the old hymn reminds, “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.”
Pray with me: Father, I admit I am preaching to myself today. Would you renew my heart and the hearts of those listening right now? Lead us to the truth of who you are and help us be the salt and light you have called us to become. May we reflect your grace, your mercy, your love to others, both in the church and outside the church. Amen.