Can You Be Trusted?
This morning I thought how nice it would be if I could visit you today. We could have a cup of coffee or tea together, and I could ask you how you are doing in your walk with the Lord, your family or Gospel team and in your ministry.
Of course, I don’t know if you would feel free enough to share some of your difficulties and struggles with me.
Generally we all are very careful what we tell others, even as a prayer request, because we are afraid that the person we share it with may either judge us or spread the news around. It’s so much safer to talk about our areas of strength than about the things with which we really need help or at least encouragement.
One of the saddest statements I hear from sisters who attend our Sisters’ Seminars is: “Aunty, I can’t share my problem with anyone. I don’t dare talk about it with my family, my co-workers or the leadership, because someone surely will gossip.”
I don’t believe we should discuss every little difficulty we face in our homes or in the ministry with the rest of the world. Husbands and wives should especially do all they can to solve their differences before God and not expose each other’s failures to the whole church. That in itself would easily turn into gossip.
I have been in worship services where, during testimony time, the wife stood up and asked for prayer for her husband, who was also a believer, and explained in detail how unkindly he treated her two days earlier. The poor husband sat in the men’s section, publicly humiliated. That kind of exposure violates nearly everything God tells a wife about respecting and honoring her husband.
In one church my husband visited, the pastor took the right course of action. He stopped the wife’s “prayer request” regarding her husband and asked her to sit down.
At the same time, God never intended for one of His children to be alone in his trials or without the counseling, prayers and ministry of the church. There are burdens, deep emotional pain, sickness and struggles that an individual is often unable to bear by himself or find biblical solutions for on his own. The clear teaching of the New Testament is that we all are members of one body, the Body of Christ. We are so closely knit together and interconnected that all that affects one member affects the whole body:
And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it (1 Corinthians 12:26).
Furthermore, every member is called upon to supply the lack of the one that is in need of ministry:
Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves (Romans 15:1).
Bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).
Therefore encourage one another, and build up one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord (James 5:14).
Many brothers and sisters who need our ministry don’t receive it because we can’t be trusted! Gossip destroys our usefulness to God. If the believers in our church, our co-workers or the people of our mission field discover that we tell even one person what they shared with us confidentially, they will never trust us again. They will rather go without help or counseling than run the risk of being betrayed a second time.
The calling we have from the Lord is to represent Him and walk as He walked. Jesus surely never broke anyone’s trust. Gossip is such a serious matter. We may be an excellent Bible teacher, a powerful witness and a great soul winner, but if we can’t control our tongues, we destroy things faster than we can build them. Our tongues will ignite a forest fire that, before we know it, burns out of control.
Please study James 3:1–10 carefully and often. It will give you God’s perspective on gossip. Let us not disqualify ourselves from serving others because we never learned to keep our mouths shut.
How confidentially should we treat confidential information? Because husband and wife are considered one before God, can they freely share confidential information with each other received during counseling—provided neither of them leaks it out?
In my opinion, the question is not whether or not the couple is able to keep the matter to themselves, but whether their action would violate in any way the trust and expectation of the person who poured out his heart. If we lose the trust of those who need our help, we can no longer minister to them.
I thought I would share with you how my husband and I deal with this matter of confidentiality. If someone talks to us as a couple about his problem and requests that we keep it confidential, my husband and I can talk and pray about it together, because it was entrusted to both of us. However, neither of us will pass the information on to anyone else.
If the person spoke to my husband alone, he will not share it with me, and I will not ask him to tell me. Likewise, if a sister shares her confidential problem with me, I will not mention it to my husband unless she specifically asks me to. If I feel that my husband could give her better advice or that it would be good for others to pray for the matter, I would first ask her permission. Sometimes a person may not tell me clearly whether the matter is to be treated as confidential or not. I always ask if I am not sure. That way I won’t make a mistake. The only time I definitely would make an exception and pass on confidential information was if someone’s life was in danger, such as if the person was planning to commit suicide or harm someone else.
I hope what I shared with you will be useful for your ministry.
I love you in Jesus,