It Costs to Test Honesty
I believe one of the reasons Christ advised us to give to every man that asks from us is to give them opportunity to prove what they are, especially if they pose as borrowers. If you don’t give someone an opportunity to steal, how will you know that he is not a thief? Some people don’t steal, not because they are not thieves but because they haven’t had the opportunity or pressure, or both to steal.
Trust must be earned. No problem. But a person needs space and opportunity to earn the trust. Benevolence dictates that you give a benefit of doubt to someone who is yet to prove his honesty. It is also because of benevolence that in a court of law, one is considered innocent until proven guilty rather than guilty until proven innocent. It is not good to treat people you don’t know with suspicion even before they behave themselves suspicious. When people get the opportunity to prove themselves, the evidence will emerge to help either withdraw the goodwill trust initially accorded them or confirm their trustworthiness.
If God chooses to send him without wearing a halo over his head or without appearing in sparkling light, an angel can appear as a normal human being—a stranger. If we don’t give him a chance, we might easily have nothing to do with a messenger that was probably bringing us good news.
It is clear that in the process of giving someone an opportunity to test his integrity, you can pay dearly. But it is important to remember that if you lose because you are obeying the Lord Jesus Christ, then it is a ‘good loss.’ Have you ever considered why Christ who knew people including the hidden things in their lives allowed Judas Iscariot to be the treasurer of His ministry? Judas did not only steal from the treasury, he also later betrayed the Lord. Jesus knew all yet, He did not only call him to be one of His disciples, He also allowed him to be the treasurer.
“Then saith one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, which should betray him, Why was not this ointment sold for three hundred pence, and given to the poor? This he said, not that he cared for the poor; but because he was a thief, and had the bag, and bare what was put therein.”—John 12:4-6.
There is what I call ‘goodwill trust’. This trust is not based on merit. It is provisional pending approval through merit. This is where if one is a thief (for example), he will get an opportunity to prove that he is one. He will betray the provisional trust and the evidence of his thieving will confirm his latent behaviour. On the other hand, if one is not a thief, he will not take advantage of the opportunity to steal or make excuses of the pressure he underwent causing him to do it. The result of the opportunity and pressure will either make you promote ‘provisional trust’ into ‘merited trust,’ or withdraw the trust altogether.
In one way or the other, God will always give us, if not allow us, an opportunity or pressure to prove what we actually are. Is it any wonder therefore that Jesus called Judas Iscariot to be one of His 12 disciples despite being a thief and traitor? Although He knew that this man was going to steal from the moneybag and betray Him, He allowed the evidence to come forth. The NIV Bible has a euphemism for Judas’ thievery. It says that he used to “help himself” from the treasury (see John 12:6). Christ decided to give him an opportunity to prove that he was actually a thief.
It costs to test and establish trustworthiness but this is not as overwhelming as the cost of betraying the goodwill trust. The price Judas ultimately paid for his sin is heartrending. There are many other examples in the Bible of people who betrayed the initial trust God gave them. We may not go into those for they are not the focus of this discussion.
The Bible says that things that cause people to stumble must come (Matt. 18:7). In the same way, we can say that things that cause people to be bad stewards will come. What will you do when they come? Have you been tested? The latter question is a title of one of the chapters in the book Virtue That Counts. (1)
Tests are important parts of proving what we are and the commitment we have for a cause. Therefore it is guaranteed that as stewards we will be tested, not just once or twice or even thrice but multiple times all through our life. Many people fail the exams of life because either there are no rehearsals for such tests or when there are, they may not know that they are undergoing rehearsals so that they take them seriously. And to make it even trickier, sometimes we get tested without us knowing that we are being tested. The best way to always pass the tests is to resolve to do the right thing even under extreme lures of pleasure and endure pain