Many times in our lives we make assumptions. We see a pot of water starting to bubble and we can assume the water is getting hot. We see an ambulance with its lights flashing and we assume it is on its way to help someone. We assume we know more about the situation than the facts presented to us by our five senses based on our past experiences.
However, our “powers of assumption” can sometimes get us into trouble. We hear or see something and our mind goes into overdrive. A member mentions how her clothes don’t fit her anymore around her tummy and we think, “Oh, she’s expecting!” A preacher takes a vacation and some members assume that he is trying out at another congregation. Or maybe we make an assumption about an individual’s social status or manner of life based on their clothing or newness of their vehicle.
If we aren’t careful, our assumptions can get the better of us. Israel almost let it happen to them, too (reference Joshua chapter 22). After conquering the land of Canaan, Reuben, Gad and the half tribe of Manasseh returned home to their land east of Jordan. Once there, they erected a great altar by the river. When Israel heard about it, they were ready to go to war! Can’t you imagine what was said? “I can’t believe it! They just left us and already they have left God. They think they are better than us! Next thing you know, they will be sacrificing their bulls on that alter…”
However, in a great show of wisdom, Israel checked out their facts before acting on the assumptions that they had formed. After sending Phinehas and ten princes of the tribes to check out the situation, they learned that the altar was there not for sacrifices, but as a witness to remind future generations that the Lord is God. The report being brought back, the tribes then bless God and cancel the war plans.
There are many hurt feelings and bad attitudes that could be avoided if we didn’t let our assumptions run wild. When the wheels in our minds start turning, we need to think about several things. First, is this something that I really need to know more about? Is it something that is sinful or has consequences affecting myself or others? If not, I may just need to leave it be and not worry about it. It may be hard to try to wipe it from our minds, but it is probably the best option to prevent us from becoming more of a busy body than a help (1 Peter 4:15).
Otherwise, do we really know (for sure) the whole situation? Like Israel, we may not know the whole story. Seeking out more information by asking questions of those involved may be needed. It can help us to remove the assumptions and replace them with knowledge while putting our minds at ease. One note, though: Please go directly to those involved (i.e. avoid asking Susie if she knows anything about what you heard or saw regarding Jill). Asking uninvolved parties many times only encourages gossip and fuels the rumor mill.
Once we have taken appropriate actions, then normal “Christian ethics” should apply – keeping things to ourselves that need to be (Proverbs 17:27-28), correcting our attitude if needed (Acts 8:22), or helping others to see where they are not living up to God’s standards (Col. 3:17). Keep in mind, though, this can only happen after seeing if our assumptions are accurate… or not!
Assumptions are a part of every day life. Our actions and reactions to them, though, need to be handled appropriately.
Priscilla Smithey is the wife of Ryan Smithey, minister for the 4th & Stewart congregation in Brownwood, TX. A native of Garland, TX, she holds both a BS and MS in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Dallas, and is a graduate of the wives program at the Memphis School of Preaching. Currently, she spends most of her time homeschooling her two children, Seth and Hannah.