John 2:24 But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.
NCAA Division 1 college athletes in the United States were polled in 2012 and asked to respond to this statement “My coaches can be trusted”. The big headline in the news when the results were published two years later was that only 53% of basketball players answered in the affirmative, that there coaches could be trusted. The sports with the highest trust in their coaches were: wrestling (78%), track/cross country (68%), swimming and hockey (63%), and football (59%).
We could spend some time discussing the reasons for the lack of trust of these young athletes, but I’d rather unpack an important Biblical concept on trust and entrusting that might surprise most Christians. What does the Bible actually say about trusting others?
God woke me early on a Sunday morning many years ago and he brought me to this scripture in John 2: 23-25. I had read it before but it never impacted me like this time. Jesus had performed miracles, people believed in his name and Jesus’ response was that “he would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all men.” I remember re-reading the verse, reading it in complete context, and then even looking up the original Greek word for “entrust” and looking for other examples of its use. The reason I was so intrigued was because I had just finished a week in which the theme came up twice, once where church leadership asked me to trust them, and a second where a young man had been hurt so badly that he was unable to trust anyone.
I was very surprised to find that the word used here for entrust “pisteuo” in the Greek or “nathan” in the Old Testament Hebrew was never used as an instruction in the Bible towards people. In other words I couldn’t find a verse that explicitly told me to trust other people. I found “Trust in the Lord” (Psalms 37:3; Proverbs 3:5; John 14:1), but where were the verses that say trust your leader? Surely they must be there because the Bible is full of examples of God’s people following his ordained leaders.
I did find the words “nathan” and “pisteuo” in other places in the Bible, including Joseph telling Potipher’s unfaithful wife that her husband had “entrusted” everything to him (Gen 39); that the Scriptures were “entrusted” to the Jewish people (Romans 3:2); that Paul was “entrusted” with the task of preaching the gospel (Gal 2:7). In fact in 1 Peter 5:2-3 we read instructions of how to be shepherds of God’s flock that has been “entrusted to you”. But I could not find a verse that explicitly said trust your parents, your church leaders, your government leaders. It tells you to honour them, but nowhere does it say trust them. Why was that?
Clearly God is a God of order, a God who sets leaders in place and a God who wants us to follow others. Why then the gap in scriptures in this area? I think Jesus answered this for us in the latter part of John 2: 25, “for he knew what was in a man”. Ultimately, as long as we walk on this earth, there is sin in us. The more we are sanctified, the more we are humbled, the more we understand what Paul did – that he was (and we are) “the worst of sinners” (1 Tim 1:15). We cannot be fully trusted. Only God can be fully trusted, and that is exactly where we need to begin, with trust in God.
Going back to the situations I came across with my church leaders asking me to trust them, they actually turned out to be wrong and I had sensed God telling me that. I met with them again and told them that I loved them, respected them, but in this I could not trust them and could not follow them because I had to trust God first. Any trust I would place in them would always be by first entrusting myself to God. And like the man I encountered who could no longer trust anyone, I have met many like him who had fully trusted their leaders and they let them down. Since their trust was first in them, when they fell, they lost their faith in God. Perhaps you know others like them. Perhaps it is you. Where we first entrust ourselves to God, and then trust others through our faith in God, we are never let down by God. Even where humans let us down, it is never God letting us down, it is humans letting us down through their (and our) sinful nature.
While the reasons that 53% of NCAA basketball players do not trust their coaches are probably not healthy reasons, it should make us ponder the concept of trust in our lives. The only one we are called to “entrust” ourselves to is God, and all other trust relationships should only be through that healthy filter. In that place you can be a healthy follower, a healthy team member, a healthy family member, and also one whom God will “entrust” with important tasks and precious people. I never ask anyone to trust me. I ask that they entrust themselves completely to God, and measure everything I say and do, through that filter. I encourage even my children to only trust me through that filter, because at some point in time I will let you down, whereas God will never let you down.