Healthy Skepticism Can Be a Good Thing

by Joe Plemon on July 31, 2009

King's College Chapel
Creative Commons License photo credit: scorbette37

Mat 10:16Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

I am a person who naturally thinks the best of people and who doesn’t like conflict.  Often, when my gut tells me something isn’t right, I dismiss that feeling by telling myself, “Joe, it’s all in your mind.  Get over it.”   Even if I know something is askew, I tell myself to “turn the other cheek” or “love my enemies.”   Yes, I do believe that I should be doing these things, but (self disclosure here), I  tend to “use” these verses to avoid conflict.  Is it possible that if I truly loved my enemies I would confront them instead of ignoring them?

As Jesus was sending his followers out into the world, he warned them of the wolves they would encounter and coached them how to respond.  In today’s world, I think his instructions would sound something like this:  “You are living in a world where people are going to try to cheat you and take every advantage.  I want you to be savvy to their tricks while at the same time living a pure life.”

What am I saying?  Jesus doesn’t want his followers to be gullible.  In fact, I don’t think he expects us to trust anyone until they have earned that trust.  Would you want your grandmother to blindly trust someone who has a “sure fire” investment scheme?  Of course not.  But we shouldn’t either.  Jesus stood for truth and exposed falsehood.  We should do the same.  I resolve therefore to strive for what I call healthy skepticism.  Healthy because I don’t want to become jaded, but skeptical because I should withhold trust until integrity is proven.

I realize that I need the spirit of Christ to give me discernment to keep this balance.  Too much skepticism will turn to cynicism while too little becomes naiveté.  This balance,  in Jesus’ words, is to be simultaneously “wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”

Are you going to automatically trust the next sales pitch you hear or even the advice of your insurance agent or investment broker?   I think Jesus would want you to make them earn it.

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