Sometimes things are not the way they appear. Assumptions are then made before we have all the facts. We jump to the wrong conclusions and end up looking somewhat foolish.
Case in point:
A woman who was waiting between flights at an airport bought a small package of cookies and sat down in the waiting area to read her newspaper. She was interrupted by a rustling noise. Lowering her newspaper, she saw a well-dressed man helping himself to the cookies lying on the table in front of her. She couldn’t believe it. Not wanting to make a big scene, however, she leaned over and took a cookie herself as she continued reading. A couple of minutes later, she heard more rustling. She was appalled! He was helping himself to another cookie! She decided she’d better take another one for herself just to show him up. This back and forth between the two kept on going until all but one cookie was left. The woman was so furious at the man she was afraid to say anything for fear she would say something she would regret. Then, as though to add insult to injury, the man broke the last cookie in two, pushed half across to her, and left. Still fuming over the matter some time later when her flight was announced, the woman opened her handbag to get her ticket. To her shock and embarrassment, there she found her pack of unopened cookies! How wrong our assumptions can be! (selected)
We can spare ourselves a lot of humiliation if we are not quick to make assumptions. It is wise to be sure that something is true before coming to the wrong conclusions. As Proverbs 25:8 says, “Don’t jump to conclusions—there may be a perfectly good explanation for what you just saw,” (The Message, MSG).
There are a lot of Bible references that illustrate the problems of false assumptions. The story of Job is a good example. Job’s friends jumped to the conclusion that his sufferings were due to his sin or disobedience to God. But that wasn’t the case. Job’s faith in God held strong in spite of his suffering and God revealed his mercy to him. James wrote, “We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful,” (James 5:11, New American Standard Bible, NASB).
The Bible shows that what we assume about someone because of their outer appearance is not entirely accurate. Unlike us, God looks on the inner heart of the person. For example, when the prophet Samuel went to the house of Jesse to anoint the next king of Israel, the prophet assumed incorrectly that Eliab, the first of Jesse’s sons he met, was to be their new leader. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart,’” (1 Samuel 16:7, NASB). The Lord revealed to the prophet that none of the other brothers qualified except for the very last one who was out in the field tending the sheep. “So he sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, with beautiful eyes and a handsome appearance. And the LORD said, ‘Arise, anoint him; for this is he.’ Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward,” (1 Samuel 6:12-13a). Due to David’s relationship with the LORD, David became known as “a man after God’s on heart,” for he did God’s will in leading Israel (Acts 13:22).
David’s rulership as king stands in stark contrast to the previous one under Saul, the first king of Israel. Saul did a very poor job as Israel’s king for he did not always do as God directed. His last blunder was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It occurred when he did not follow God’s order to completely destroy their enemies, the Amalekites, their king and all they possessed. Saul even lied to Samuel when he reported that the mission was fully carried out. Saul falsely assumed that God didn’t really mean it when he said to destroy all Amalekites, including their king. And he falsely assumed that if he allowed his people to spare some of the spoil, including the choicest sheep and oxen for sacrifice to God, then this would be allowable. But Samuel rebuked Saul saying, “To obey is better than sacrifice,” (1 Sam. 15:22-23).
When Samuel rebuked Saul for not following God’s directive, Saul falsely assumed that God would overlook the incident. Saul admitted to Samuel that he’d done wrong by not doing as God told him but his sincerity comes into question. He tells Samuel, “Now please pardon my sin and return with me, that I may worship the LORD,” (1 Sam 15:25). But God had enough of Saul’s disobedience. The prophet revealed to Saul, “I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel,” (1 Samuel 15:26. Refer to the entire account, 1 Samuel 15:1-34).
The people of Israel could have saved themselves from being under the control of a king like Saul in the first place. But they made one big false assumption—that if they were just like all the other nations and be ruled by a king, they could enjoy a greater advantage in their battles and other national interests. They no longer wanted to have judges lead them as they had been doing ever since the death of Joshua. So, they wanted to change their system of government from judges to a monarchy. Their hopes were based on the false assumption that they knew better than God on how to be ruled. Their attitude was, “No, but there shall be a king over us that we also may be like all the nations, that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles,” (1 Samuel 8:19-20). The reality was that they were rejecting God to be their true King and Judge. (1 Sam. 8:4-9). Though God was displeased with their assumptions, he selected the king they all approved of (1 Sam. 10:17-27). Over the course of time they would learn the hard way what happens when you don’t do exactly as the all-wise God wants and live under false assumptions (1 Samuel 8:10-22; 14:24-30).
False assumptions sow many seeds that grow many woes. They produce misjudgment (Matthew 7:1-3; Romans 2:1), mistrust (John 9:1-12; Acts 9:19-22) and misunderstanding (John 8:1-11; 10:31-39; Luke 23:34). Mix these in with pride (Proverbs 16:18) and prejudice (James 2:1-13) and you have one big time bomb that can explode anytime. They are often the underlying problems of division (Romans 16:17-18; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13), dissension (Proverbs 6:16-19; Galatians 5:19-21; Titus 3:9-11), and destruction (James 3:1-12; Jude 1:10-16).
These problems can be prevented, however, when one is willing to have an open mind with a desire to pursue the truth. In John 8:31 and 32, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Among other things, the truth will set us free from making false assumptions. For example, the Pharisees—an influential Jewish sect—had preconceived ideas about the promised Messiah that were, in reality, distorted. When Jesus came on the scene, their false assumptions led them to reject Jesus as the Messiah. Jesus scolded them for following “the traditions of men” rather than accept the truth he came to proclaim (Mark 7:1-23). Had they believed the truth of Jesus instead of being so closed minded, they would not have been condemned for jumping to false conclusions (Luke 13:28).
As the saying goes, “look before you leap” or, in other words, check things out thoroughly before jumping to conclusions. This applies not only to searching the scriptures, but searching our own motives and decisions and beliefs. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God my be adequate, equipped for every good work.” When we strive to abide by the teachings of God and his Word, we will be equipped to prevent such things as false assumptions. And we’ll be all the more happier for doing so.
By the way, here’s the answer to the False Assumption question posed earlier:
When we follow the voice of truth, we won’t have to worry about other voices like failure or weakness or fear or foolishness for they are based on false assumptions. Here’s Casting Crowns singing, “Voice of Truth”: http://youtu.be/tcuiuIwtpa4
Good News to YOU!