"Meaningless! Meaningless!" says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."
-- Ecclesiastes 1:2
The Altar of Cynicism is a good article by John Sartelle in this month's Tabletalk.
This is where cynicism takes hold: with our realization that nothing or no one can be totally trusted, and we can’t even point the finger of accusation at others because we ourselves cannot be trusted. We must number ourselves among the unfaithful and untrustworthy. Cynicism is the temple to which we finally come after stopovers at the houses of all the other gods. It is the temple at the end of “temple row.”
At the last, Solomon was saved from his cynicism. Ecclesiastes did not end [cynically]. Solomon did not sail out of the harbor into an endless ocean of emptiness. He did not end his story with the words, “To hell with it, to hell with it all.” He came to the sanctuary of a changeless God — a God who made incredible promises of grace and then kept His word. He came to a God who forgave unfaithful and untrustworthy people. He came to a God who said, “I will be faithful to my covenant with you. I will be faithful even though you have not been faithful to Me.”
Don’t expect more from your deities than they are able to deliver. Money will fail you, pleasure will fail you, power will fail you; friends, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children will fail you. Solomon was right about that. And when they do, many of us are devastated. In our bitterness and resentment we go to the temple of cynicism. But there is a gospel for cynics. There is a gospel that says to us, “Of course, all of these will fail you. Of course, they are unfaithful and untrustworthy, and so are you.” So, in the words of Solomon, let’s hear “the conclusion of the matter.”
Don’t give up; there is one more temple. It is the temple that welcomes the unfaithful and untrustworthy. Above the door are words of grace: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” (Isa. 55:1–2).
Our churches will fail us too.
But the Church will prevail because Jesus Christ is Lord.
Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe.
-- Philippians 2:14-15