“But the princes of the Ammonites said to Hanun their lord, “Do you think, because David has sent comforters to you, that he is honoring your father? Has not David sent his servants to you to search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it?”” (ESV – Read the chapter)
What do you expect from people? We live in a day in which there is a growing deficit of public trust. People are generally suspicious of one another and expect the worst out of them. The thing is, this blanket distrust doesn’t come naturally to us. It is a learned skill. But once it has been learned, it’s hard to unlearn.
I’ve seen a commercial several times recently from Wells Fargo. They’re trying desperately to rebuild their image after they were caught doing some things that were both unethical and illegal. The narrator in the ad talks about how after the San Francisco earthquake of 1906, when the city was basically destroyed along with all the bank’s records, the bank allowed people to come and withdraw their money based on their word alone. Lisa and I both had the same reaction: “Yeah right. Like that would happen today.”
That kind of general assumption of goodwill and character doesn’t exist in many places. There are a few small towns where it holds (we happen to live in one—it’s awesome), but that’s about it. And the thing is: We’ve chosen this path ourselves. We made the choices that have led us to where we are. So, what good has come of it?
We need not think this culture of suspicion is somehow new, though. No, there is nothing new under the sun. When David sent some servants with a message of comfort to the Ammonite prince and soon-to-be king, Hanun, after his father, who was a friend to a David, died, Hanun had a choice before him. He could assume David’s intentions were true and receive them graciously as they had been sent. Or, he could do what he did and assume they were there for clandestinely nefarious purposes and treat them accordingly.
Unfortunately for him and a whole lot of others he listened to the ungracious and suspicious advice of his counselors and, while he didn’t kill the servants, what he did was worse. He embarrassed them in such as way as to send a message: “I’m the big, bad king now, and if you mess with me, I’ll embarrass you and your army just like I did your servants.”
Well, Hanun was obviously new and dumb because he didn’t realize that David was not the guy to whom you wanted to sent a message like that. He had yanked on the lion’s tale, and now he was going to figure out how not to get mauled. He hired a bunch of Syrians to help, but David’s forces—who were just as enraged as he was at the offense dealt their brothers—defeated them all soundly. What started as a bit of suspicion-fueled machismo resulted in a great embarrassment, not for David, but for Hanun.
Rebuilding the public deficit of trust is no small feat and won’t happen overnight. But, the fruits of suspicion and mistrust are bitter. They lead us to do things that just create problems. When suspicion is our guide, the kind of gracious hospitality our heavenly Father consistently shows us flies out the window. When mistrust is the rule, love is the victim.
What can we do to make an impact on this? First, be a person who is trustworthy. If that’s not in place, you’ll never even get off the ground. Second, place your whole trust in your heavenly Father. He has proven Himself trustworthy a trillion times over. If you don’t start by trusting Him, you’ll never learn to trust anyone else. Third, begin extending other people the benefit of the doubt. You won’t always be right and sometimes you’ll get burned, but people have a way of living up—or down—to the expectations we place on them. When we expect people to fail us they usually do. When we expect the best, we just might be pleasantly surprised. Get rid of the suspicion and start rebuilding trust.