Assumptions: Proceed with Caution
“Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk. 14 So Eli said to her, ‘How long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!’ 15 But Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my soul before the Lord.’” I Samuel 1:13-15
Making assumptions has great potential to cause unfortunate consequences. Acting upon false assumptions leads to behavior that is simply foolish, if not downright cruel and hurtful. Eli demonstrates the foolishness of false assumptions in his interaction with Hannah in I Samuel 1. Ask Job, he knew a thing or two about how cruel people can act when they believe their own false assumptions. As disciples of Jesus Christ who love the truth, (II Thessalonians 2:10), and strive to speak “the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15), we need to be very cautious about acting based on false assumptions.
Assumptions are easy to make. God gave you eyes and ears to observe your surroundings. He gave you a mind to discern information and make sense of the world. The experiences you gain in life accumulate to form a sort of mental database to provide you with understanding and help you make informed decisions. However, it takes a certain amount of humility to remember that you may not have all the facts about a situation, and to acknowledge that you may not have the wisdom to interpret the facts of a situation appropriately. All that is to say: just because you have made an assumption does not mean your assumption is correct.
It is important to keep from making false assumptions because how you treat others matters. Your assumptions affect the way you interact with people. He looks upset, he shouldn’t be so grumpy… She is so quiet, she really needs to be friendlier… That family has the perfect life, their faith must come easy… That family is a mess, they must not love God enough… When we make assumptions such as these, it is difficult, (if not impossible), to stop those assumptions from influencing our behavior.
Proverbs 14:29b says, “he who is impulsive exalts folly.” Many assumptions, (especially false ones), are made impulsively, and certainly lead to foolish behavior. Proverbs 18:2 says, “A fool has no delight in understanding, but in expressing his own heart.” Once a fool forms an opinion based on his assumptions, he cares little whether he is actually right or wrong.
So how do you keep from making false assumptions?
Resist the urge to form a quick opinion based on limited information. Proverbs 18:15 says “The heart of the prudent acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.” Jesus taught that you will identify a good tree based on the fruit that it bears, (Matthew 7:16-20). Observing a tree's fruit takes patience. Every apple tree in Indiana looks dead during the winter. It would be foolish to walk through an orchard in January and make assumptions on the health of those trees. Wait until you see the evidence in the fruit.
You can also keep from making false assumptions by always acting with love. I Corinthians 13:5b-7 tells us that love, “thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” When you do not have all of the information, you owe people the benefit of the doubt. Care about other people’s spiritual conditions first. Get to know people. Look for the good in others. Read the gospels and note how Jesus treated others, especially the outcasts.
Be careful about the conclusions and opinions you form. Always remember to love your neighbor, (Matthew 22:39). You certainly do not need to be naive when dealing with people, but if you find yourself making an assumption, proceed with caution.