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Have you ever heard the phrase, “He or she has trust issues”? According to Dr. Rachel Botsman’s book, Who Can You Trust, we all have trust issues. Dr. Botsman takes the reader on a history of the subject of trust and shows that today we do a better job of trusting strangers than institutions.
In her assessment, trust has evolved. She states that when our societies were small we trusted each other. Our communities were small and everyone knew each other. In this climate, individual trust was king. As communities grew, institutions were formed to address the needs of the world.
Today, trust in institutions has waned. She cites that in the 1970’s, according to Gallup surveys, 70% of Americans believed they could trust key institutions to do the right thing most of the time. In 2016 such confidence had fallen to 32%. Trust in Congress fell from 49% to 9%. Trust in the church fell from 65% to 41%.
In each of these cases, institutions such as banks, governments and the church have knowingly or unknowingly failed the individual. Many of these institutions have found themselves caught in some scandal that has discredited them with the public.
On the other hand, Botsman notes that we are trusting of strangers. Who would have dreamed that someone could build a business by allowing strangers to stay in other people’s homes? Today Airbnb, the home-sharing marketplace, is valued at 31 billion dollars, making it the second most valuable hospitality brand in the world. 20 years ago who would have thought that people would look online at detailed profiles to book a ride in a car with a total stranger? Uber is the company and is currently valued at 68 billion dollars.
Why is trust in age old institutions decreasing while trust in strangers continues to increase? Dr. Botsman cites three reasons:
Some people are being punished for wrongdoing while others get a leave or pass.
The digital age is flattening hierarchies and eroding faith in experts and the rich and powerful.
We live in cultural ghettos and become deaf to other voices.
What are followers of Christ to do in the midst of a society that distrusts churches? David provides a good example of how we should respond in difficult times. While King Saul was on the throne he decided that David was a threat and wanted to get rid of him. Though hunted by Saul, David does not seek to kill God’s anointed. Instead, when given the opportunity, he spares King Saul’s life and through this act he shows us what it is like to be a trustworthy man. Let me offer four biblical observations taken from I Samuel 24.
David is told by his men that God has delivered Saul into their hands, yet David was reluctant to slay Saul.
David remembers a command found in Exodus 22:28 “You shall not revile God, nor curse a ruler of your people.”
The text tells us in verse 5 that when he had cut a corner of Saul’s garment off, his heart struck him. He was convicted and did not go any further to subdue the king.
David stated to Saul that he would not kill him and he kept his word. Saul did not die by David’s hand.
If we follow these four strategies as believers, then others will discover that they can trust us, and the church will be perceived as a place that is reliable, helpful and trustworthy.