While faith and presumption take into account a level of trust that goes beyond reason and physical evidence, they are distinct. To exercise one’s faith is to trust in God’s word, works, and promises. Jesus commended the centurion (Matt. 8:5-13) for his faith because for the centurion, Jesus’ word that his servant would be healed was enough for him. His trust in Jesus’ word did not require Jesus to physically go to his servant for the healing to be effectual. Throughout the book of Ephesians, Paul emphasizes that our salvation comes through faith by trusting in Christ’s death and resurrection.

Presumption, on the other hand, is when one takes something for granted or proceeds with unwarranted boldness. In Matthew 20:20-22 and Mark 10:36—38 James and John and their mother are presumptuous to think they have the right to ask Jesus for the highest placement in the Kingdom of heaven. Further, in Luke 22:23-27, the apostles were presumptuous to think they could determine who Jesus would regard as the greatest amongst them.

Therefore in life, one needs to be careful not to mistake presumption for faith. This is especially true when interpreting circumstances in one’s own life or the lives of others. In a middle and upper middle class American context, one should be aware of the influences of prosperity and variations of the “health and wealth gospel.” One must avoid the temptation to simply equate success of one’s own or other’s endeavors as a sign of God’s approval. The opposite is also true, one must be careful not to see one’s own trials and tribulations or the trials and tribulations of others as evidence of God’s chastisement or disapproval. As Ecclesiastes 7:13-14 teaches, God creates both times of prosperity and adversity; therefore, no one can discover anything about their own or another’s future.

Dan LaValla is Director of Library Services and Development Associate for Institutional Advancement at Biblical. He is Chair of the Endowment Committee for the American Theological Library Association and is very active in his church and community, coaching youth baseball and football and has served on several community boards. See also http://www.biblical.edu/index.php/daniel-lavalla.


+2 # Mahlon Smith 2012-04-06 11:17
I appreciated your blog Dan. I've always seen faith and presumption having similar features but proceeding from different assumptions. Faith is godly motives, with godly goals based upon God's word. Presumption could very well be (but often not) godly motives, with godly goals based upon human opinion. Numbers 13 and 14 is where I turn to see this distinction. Faith proceeds on God's current word, whereas presumption proceeds on a word given yesterday. Faith says "we can" because God said so (Num 13:29) whereas presumption says "we can" apart from God saying so (Num 14:40-42. Faith says "yes" because "God is", whereas presumption assumes yes for fear of "what if".
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0 # Daniel LaValla 2012-05-07 23:08
Good to hear from you Mahlon and I fully agree with your comments! You tease out the distinctives that motivate faith and presumption. Faith is God-centered; presumption tethered to self-centered motives.

The difficulty is that we can become blinded to our true motives when they are masked by apparently good desires or good intentions. It becomes most difficult when our desire for "good things" are not in line with God's plan or God's plan is hard to comprehend from our human perspective.
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0 # Giles Scott 2012-12-01 11:00
Great topic. I found your blog because I have always wondered about the difference between these two things over the last 17 years as a business owner.
I believe God called us to start a business, but over the years we've always struggled financially. The way out of our struggles is to increase revenue, (our costs are as low as we can get without sacrificing service in a real way) which takes an investment of cash (which inevitably we don't have). Therefore, I go to the bank wondering if I am presuming that God will bless the borrowed investment or is this a step of faith? Well, over the years, the results are NOT definitive. Sometimes the investment panned out, others it didn't.
My conclusion is that I really don't know until after the action when I can look back on the results of my decision. My dilemma is that I would love to have some concrete guidelines to govern my decisions so that I can eliminate those presumptuous decisions.
Any ideas?
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0 # Daniel LaValla 2013-01-28 13:38
Thank you for your reply Giles, I hope you receive my reply as it is almost two months after your post. I do not get notified when comments are posted and happened to be pointed to this today for an unrelated purpose, but did not want to ignore you.

To start, I want to say that my experience is very similar to yours; therefore, as I reply, please know that I also often desire more clarity on such decisions. I also have a very close friend who is a small business owner for over 20 years and we often discuss the ups and downs of his business and my family’s financial challenges since moving out of a career in healthcare to a career in ministry. Here are some principles that I try to follow and remain committed to living out:

• Are you in daily communication (prayer) with God about not only your business, but all areas of your life and continually committing your days to Him? Do you sense a strong conviction that regardless of your circumstances that this is what He wants you to be doing?
• Remain true to Biblical principles and business ethics that demonstrate your commitment to Christ and integrity of character regardless of your circumstances. We rarely understand the impact on others with respect to our actions and character through our times of trials and in prosperity as it pertains to our relationship with God.
• Are you content with the position in life that God has given to you and accepting of His call for your life?
• In the midst of the ups and downs, is God providing a means for you to meet your financial obligations and are you able to sustain your basic necessities for today and the near future?
• From a spiritual perspective or a gauge of the strength of your relationship with God, avoid two things: comparisons to others who are prospering more than you are financially and avoid the question as to why you are not experiencing greater business success. Although it is important to address these from a strategic planning perspective to help your business adjust to the marketplace and be more competitive, these are not necessarily a barometer of the state of health with respect to faith or God’s approval and disapproval.

Finally, in closing, I would point you to Mahlon’s post as he raises the issue of motive as it pertains to faith and presumption.

I hope this is helpful; may the Lord bless you.
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