February 9, 2015

A Sin That Fans The Flame: Ascribing Intent

A Boy Blowing on an Ember to Light a Candle
El Greco
Ascribing intent to someone's actions. Also known as: Thinking the worst about someone. It is your own mind murdering a person's character before you take the time to find out the truth. There is no trust in the person or God here. Just distrust and a lack of faith.

Proverbs 17:20 ~ “A man of crooked heart does not discover good, and one with a dishonest tongue falls into calamity.”

Proverbs 21:23 ~ “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.

All sin is pointless and hurtful to self and others but some sins seem to amplify the negative impact in people’s lives. It is the very nature of living in community with others that there will inevitably be communication hiccups. We certainly do not need to help the interpersonal miscues along and foster relational friction. The Devil thrives on these small individual daily disasters to cause chaos and disorder in our homes, work, schools and the public square.

Another person gives you a look. Your wife never texted you back. Your friends went to lunch without you. If we look hard enough we can find reasons to be offended by other people’s behaviors all day and every day. Most often you being offended for no reason is because you’ve ascribed or attributed bad intent to people’s actions. Come to think of it, to ascribe any intent on a person’s behalf without knowing what they are really thinking is foolhardy and dangerous. It is also a complete lack of trust of the person (and others as we will learn). Taking every action or lack of action as a personal affront is a tremendous mistakes and only leads to heartburn or heartache.

When you assume people are angry, you usually respond in kind. When you assume people hate you, you usually respond in kind. It doesn’t take long to see the horrendous damage this mindset inflicts on one’s self and those around us unaware. Our proclivity to jump to conclusions about other people’s actions kindle fires that consume grace. The worst form of this is when humans ascribe bad intent to God. This of course is ridiculous and makes no sense when the Bible tells us that God does things in our best interest and for our long term benefit. What is sad is that we can indirectly ascribe bad intent to God indirectly by the way we tread other people. How you ask? Read on.

A person content in all circumstances that does not allow their circumstances or the intent of others to affect their walk with God anyway. When someone assumes the worst about others it screams of a much worse underlying relational condition with God. It assumes that things are not being orchestrated by God in your best interest or long-term benefit. To believe this is to not believe what the Bible has told is true. The Bible tells us that God does things to benefit us, not harm us. So by assuming the worst about someone exposes that we have assumed the worst about God’s intent also. This is blatant disobedience based in a total lack of faith.

Jeremiah 29:11 ~ For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.

Philippians 4:11 ~ “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.”

Happy people do not do this. They don’t take things personally. They don’t make every incident and event personal tragedy. They don’t ascribe intent to the unintentional actions of others. This isn’t smart nor is it Biblical. The only intent that we can know for certain has already been communicated to us through the Bible. It is God’s intent and he has a plan that is all but complete. A plan that involved our sinful condition, the sending of His Son in accord with Scripture. A plan that saw His Son crucified, buried and resurrected the third day. A plan that would restore man to the good graces of the Father justified and saved from their sins.

Furthermore, a person that loves does not assume the worst or ascribe intent to others actions without knowing for sure of the intent behind the action. 1 Corinthians 13:5 indirectly speaks to ascribing intent. It tells us that love…

1 Corinthians 13:5 ~ “…does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.”

This verse is the dividing line between good and evil, love and hate. It is at this very point that a Christians has to make a decision. They can dishonor others, self-seek, easily angered, and keep records of wrongs….or not. To choose to do so forces a person to make many assumptions that might not be true….or they can just love a person and chose to overlook many of the perceived faults. Even if there was malicious intent by another, we still have a choice in how to respond to it and to assume the worst is never better than an attempt to first forgive.

Love does not assume the worst about other people. Love doesn’t jump to conclusions. It seeks to understand the other person even if we feel we’ve been wronged. Love seeks to get all the facts of the situation before making a final decision that will affect the relationship with other people and God. Thinking the best of others is not naivety. As Christians we are still called to be critically discerning. To separate the good from the bad. If there is an overbearing or overt evidence of malevolent intent we need to tread cautiously but toe assume everyone is evil and no one does things for righteous reasons is to ignore a majority of Scripture. Yes, man is inherently fallen and sinful but through Christ, men are saved and can do things for righteous reasons. To assume otherwise is to doubt God’s word. Again, a lack of faith.

James 1:19-20 ~ “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

If we do not assume good intent of others actions we therefore delight in negativity and wrongdoing o the other person. As the Proverb at the beginning of this post alludes to, when we assume bad intent we will set ourselves on a footing for slanderous speech and maligning people. All this because we feel we’ve been wronged…even when we haven’t. We become the thing that we accuse the other person of being. Instead of the accused being guilty of the sin we’ve accused them of (slander), we become the thing we despise. So not only are we guilty of being slanderous ascribing guilt to the innocent which is injustice, we also become guilty of hypocrisy at the same time.

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