My mother had her identity stolen recently, and she doesn’t even own a computer. Now every teller, every store clerk, every credit card company and even some casual acquaintances are suspect. Her trust has been violated, and she will not give it again easily.
“You have to earn my trust!” It’s the message Americans everywhere are sending telepathically through their television sets as our political conventions flicker onscreen. Who hasn’t heard it said to them as a new driver or used that phrase to scold their own child? We want our loved ones and our politicians to establish a track record which will kindle our willingness to believe. There’s prudence and value in that perspective, but there’s also a problem. What is the price of trust? How much is enough to earn it?
When someone says, “Trust me,” they are asking for our confidence in a way which makes us vulnerable to pain, to treachery, to being made a fool. There is no trust without the possibility of loss. By “earning” our trust, we mean that someone must give us good odds before we take that bet. Like a savvy card shark at an all-night poker game, we want a sure thing. But the risk is never zero.
You can’t earn my trust because there are only two kinds of people. Perfect people already own my trust; they don’t have to earn it. (I only know one of those.) And imperfect people can never earn my trust because they can never be wholly trustworthy. When you earn something, you receive payment for the work you have already done, but trust is given in exchange for work you have yet to do. Trust can be enticed and invited. It can be justified or betrayed, but only in hindsight. Trust is a credit card, not a debit card; it is never fully funded up front. We give our trust to an imperfect person with the built-in capacity to fail us. If we are going to wait until it’s been wholly earned, we will never trust anyone.
On the flip side, we are not required to trust everyone. In fact, we are warned against it in Scripture (see Psalm 118:8" href="https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm%20118:8&version=NIV" target="_blank">Psalm 118:8 or 1 Cor. 15:33, for example). If it turns out a retail company was careless with my mother’s financial information, I hope she cuts up their charge card. Trust is a resource we are expected to administer with wisdom, and that makes it more valuable. The next time you feel you must earn someone else’s trust, remember that it’s impossible. You are obligated to love them well regardless, but their trust will always contain an element of unmerited favor. The next time you are tempted to tell someone that your trust has to be earned, tell them, instead, that trust is a privilege which is granted in imitation of Christ who risked His own hurt for the sake of relationship with us. You can’t earn my trust. Trusting another person is always, in some measure, grace.
Here’s an interesting sermon on the difference between faith and trust: https://www.ronedmondson.com/2012/07/faith-and-trust-a-sermon-message.html
A blog on trust disappointed: https://www.crosswalk.com/11575641/
I would love it if you would add your thoughts by leaving a comment below.