I’ve been musing on cynicism this week. I came across these words from the called Cole Arthur Riley (well worth following on Facebook): “there is a cynicism in me that so easily masquerades as wisdom. I’ve been reminding myself that hopelessness serves no one but the oppressor. And while people are doing all they can to stay alive, it is the very least I can do to retain imagination for their survival.” She also shared the quote in the picture this week: “be careful what doors you allow cynicism to lock in you. All dreaming is dangerous to those who benefit from our hopelessness.”
Living in the troubled world we live in cynicism can come very quickly, and as the quote says, can masquerade as wisdom by telling us we are foolish to have hope and that the truth is there is no hope, there can be no peace, love is a dream that cannot be made real. But these things are not true. Hope is what we need to hold on to and hold out for. Otherwise, those who would bring the world to its knees will achieve their aim.
With these thoughts ringing in my head, I read one of the stories that Jesus told. It is a story of a boss who is going away and leaves the treasures of their business in the hands of three workers. When the boss returns, they discover two of the workers have increased what their boss entrusted to them but the third dug a hole and buried it, saying that they knew their boss was a hard taskmaster and they were afraid.
It is tempting to think this is a story about judgement for failing to make money, because we are told that the ones who made money are praised, but the boss if very angry with the one who dug the hole. But that’s not what this story is about. If we hear this story with our capitalist consumer ears, we can make it a justification for oppressing those who struggle with life and don’t work hard and pull themselves up by their boat straps. But this is not a blueprint for running an economic or welfare system. Rather, it is a story warning us about what happens if we don’t have faith in what has been entrusted to us.
I call this a story of Holy Investment. So instead of focussing on the failing of the one who dug the hole, we need to focus on what all three are trusted with: the treasure. We are trusted with all sorts of treasures: people, our planet, the possibility of peace. What do we do with what is entrusted to us? Do we dig a hole in our fear and bury our hope and become cynical?
When we do that what we bury is hope and imagination and possibility: the possibility of peace; the possibility of welcome to those seeking refuge on our shores; the possibility of a health service that is not broken; the possibility of our planet finding a way of living better with the mess we have made. It’s not that we don’t like these ideas, it’s not that we don’t believe they matter. Rather we become fearful and cynical and hopeless. But this serves no one but the oppressor. God invests in us – people, planet, the possibility of peace. We have a calling not to bury what God give us.
Jesus told this story to his followers to remind them to keep watch and see where God was at work – notice what God what entrusting to them and make sure they didn’t give into their fear. In a world that is in such need we need to keep watch so that we do not become cynical and hopeless and so full of fear that we believe that nothing good will ever happen We need to keep hope actively alive, this is the least we can do for those need peace and the least we can do for our planet. So we pray that we will hold onto hope in these difficult times and remember what God has entrusted us with.
If you’d like to talk about anything I’ve written here, or anything at all, please send us a message and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.
Rev Anne Sardeson