The Serious Dangers of Presumption—And How to Nip It in the Bud

Presumptuous sins are a deadly hole, and it's easy to fall into it. (Pexels/Skitterphoto)

The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its first estimate for third quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The seasonally adjusted annual rate showed a 3.0 percent increase from the previous quarter. The estimate was only 0.1 percent lower than last quarter, 0.4-0.5 percent higher than pre-report expectations and above the range of most analysts' expectations. Nearly everyone had presumed that Hurricanes Harvey and Irma would have had a much greater impact.

Inflation, as measured by the GDP Price Index, increased to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 2.2 percent for the third quarter (compared to 1.0 percent last quarter and most pre-report expectations ranging from 1.5-1.7 percent). Again, the presumptions of analysts were proven wrong. Although inflation is often viewed as a negative, concerns about deflation allowed this estimate to be a welcome reprieve.

This past week, predictions were also proven wrong with the Census Bureau's Durable Goods Orders and new Residential Home Sales reports. September's new durable goods orders increased 2.2 percent for the month, which was more than 100 percent above pre-report expectations. Core (non-defense ex-aircraft) capital goods increased 1.3 percent for the month (more than double forecasts). New residential home sales increased nearly 19 percent for the month (the largest percentage increase in 28 years) and was 20 percent above forecasts.

In economics, presumption can be expensive. People are hired, inventory is purchased and investments are made on the presumption that customers will come and sales will increase. If the additional sales fail to materialize, adjustments will have to be made, and losses will be incurred. Many have missed the tremendous rally in stock prices because they presumed that a market correction, or even crash, was imminent. Wise business men and women manage risks. Presumption is an enemy of good business practices.

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The subject of presumption is not often breached from U. S. pulpits. But presumption can be one of the most damaging errors that a believer can commit. A presumptuous person is deceived and often takes action based upon that deception. According to Proverbs, avoiding the sins of presumption is a way of avoiding big transgressions and keeping us upright.

"Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; may they not rule over me. Then I will be upright and innocent from great transgression" (Ps. 19:13).

The word contains many examples of presumption and how to avoid it.

After the spies returned from the promised land, the Israelites grumbled against Moses, Aaron and the Lord and wanted to return to Egypt. The word of the Lord told them that their generation would not enter the promised land because of their unfaithfulness, but they decided to enter anyway. They presumed they would be successful. They were routed (Num. 14:26-45).

After Israel had experienced a great victory at Jericho, Joshua sent men to explore Ai. They reported that the people were few, and he should only send a couple of thousand men to strike it. Joshua presumed they would be victorious and did not take the time to seek the Lord. But there was unknown sin in the camp, and they were defeated (Joshua 7:2-5).

The Lord had told the Israelites not to make any pact with the people of the promised land. But the inhabitants of Gibeon were shrewd. They sent a delegation to Joshua dressed in old clothing, carrying old wineskins, with dry and crumbly bread, telling them they were from a distant land. Joshua didn't take the time to seek the Lord and signed a pact with them (Josh. 9:3-15).

When the Philistines attacked Israel, David sought the Lord. He was not presumptuous regarding his ability, even though he had recently defeated the Philistines. The Lord gave David new tactics and even a signal to indicate the timing. David was victorious.

"Now the Philistines raided the valley once more. And David again inquired of God, and God answered him: 'Do not go up after them, but turn around behind them and come to them in front of the balsam trees. Whenever you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, you will advance the battle, for God has gone out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines" (1 Chron. 14:13-15).

Paul sought to follow the Holy Spirit and avoided presumption in the process. On Paul's second missionary journey, when going through Phrygia and Galatia, the Holy Spirit forbade Paul and his companions from speaking the word in Asia. Similarly, the Holy Spirit kept them from going into Bithynia.

"They went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia and were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. When they came near Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not allow them. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas" (Acts 16:6-8).

The friends of presumption are self-confidence in our abilities, being overly comfortable with a situation, rebellion, laziness and spiritual pride. Some may believe that the Lord will bless us in whatever we do, but the Scriptures do not agree. Others may believe we should only seek the Lord for large matters, but the Scriptures tell us to recognize Him in all things. The following principles should be an aid to eliminate (or at least reduce) presumption in our lives.

  • Have a morning devotional. Spend some quiet time first thing in the morning to seek the Lord. The time should include praise, thanks, petitions and the Word. Daily devotionals are the foundation of successful days.
  • Continue to pray throughout the day. The prayers don't have to be long or vocal. Pray for guidance and His blessings for the activities of your day.
  • Make Jesus Lord of our lives. If Jesus is Lord, He determines our attitude and activities. Some expect the Lord to adjust to us, when we need to adjust to His ways. If He is Lord, we will walk in love.
  • Trust in the Lord with everything, don't depend on our understanding, and acknowledge Him in everything—we won't have to presume, He will guide us.

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths" (Prov. 3:5-6).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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