Vol. 11 No. 4 April 2009
It is perhaps the most dangerous thought we can entertain. It seems right. It must be right. In fact, it has to be right. Webster calls it an “assumption.” “A fact or statement taken for granted.” Note the key phrase in that definition, “taken for granted.” An assumption is neither truth nor reality; it is not fact. An assumption is merely personal conjecture. It is an unsubstantiated belief or idea based often times upon the circumstances in my own life.
David assumed a soldier who had been away from his wife would immediately return to her tender affections. The king couldn’t control his sexual appetite (2 Samuel 11:2-4), and so he figured Uriah could not either (vv. 6-9). Sarah assumed couples well in to their retirement years could not have children (Genesis 18:10-15). She figured that because she had lived past the years of childbearing, any idea about a future “seed” (Genesis 22:17-18) simply wasn’t possible. Isaac assumed his wife and younger son would be honest and forthright (Genesis 27). The Patriarch had previously engaged in deception himself (Gen. 26), but he did not think that other members of his family would follow his example. Herod assumed an infant referred to as “King of the Jews” might attempt to usurp his power (Matthew 2:1-8). His insecurity led to the murder of many innocent children (v. 16). The Jews assumed the Messiah would overthrow Roman tyranny and oppression. Their prejudices and false interpretations (Acts 1:6) blinded them to the possibility of a spiritual Deliverer.
A lot of folks experience conflict because they often entertain false assumptions. They fuss, disagree and divide because they have made certain unconfirmed “mental jumps” about people, ideas or actions. When someone walks by us without saying hello, we assume that they must be upset or angry at us. “What have I done wrong?” “It must be something I said.” Could it be, in reality, that our friend has something heavy on his or her heart, and is so engrossed in thought that he simply does not see us? Are there other possibilities?
When someone starts yawning during a sermon or lesson, we assume that it must be because we are doing a poor job in terms of delivery and that our message is boring. Could it be, in reality, that a student did not sleep well the previous night and is simply tired? Maybe she had a sick child to take care of during the time most folks sleep. When a spouse doesn’t exhibit typical affection (1 Corinthians 7:2-5) toward his or her mate, we assume it must be because the love and desire is absent from the marriage. Could there be other reasons why physical intimacy is not being initiated? What about fatigue? What about stress at work? What about sickness? What about financial burdens that are affecting the family? Could there be other mitigating factors? When an elder of the congregation does not call us when we’re sick at home, we assume it must be because he does not care about us. It is possible that he has not called us because he simply does not know we are ill (James 5:14)?
Many times we not only assume, but we assume the worst, about a person or situation. The consequences of that kind of thinking can be harmful and costly. Jesus was the only man who could read minds (John 2:24-25; cf. Matthew 9:4; 12:25; Luke 5:22; 6:8; 11:17). He knew exactly what his peers were thinking. You and I do not have that luxury; we are not God (1 Samuel 16:7; Psalm 139:23). Deity can see through our façade and ascertain our true motives. The only way we can know what other people are thinking is if they tell us. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him…” (1 Corinthians 2:11a)?
Are you disappointed by somebody’s action or inaction? Have you assumed the worst? Wouldn’t it be better to find out for sure (1 Thessalonians 5:21)? Go. Ask. Communicate. The truth will make you free.