By definition, the benefit of the doubt means: A favorable judgment given in the absence of full evidence; or to believe something good about someone, rather than something bad, when you have the possibility to do either. The benefit of the doubt is rarely offered, but is always desired. What does that mean, you ask? It means this: The fallen nature, that which we inherited by being born into Adam’s race, tends to thrive on the negative. It often wants to hear and believe the worst. It’s thrilled at “juicy gossip”. Our ears too often perk up at bad news, and we are much too quick to believe that which we have heard. Except when we are the ones being talked about. Then we don’t want people being so quick to believe the tale being told. Essentially, we want the benefit of the doubt! Personally, if someone was saying negative things about me, I would not want people to instantly believe it until they talked to me about it; or at least had ample proof for their accusation. I believe most of us, if not all, feel this way. So if this is the common courtesy all of us would like to receive, should we not give this courtesy to others? I believe there is a Bible verse that says something like that (Luke 6:31).
1Cor 13:7 says that God’s kind of love “Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” These verses are not saying that we should be doormats for the world; nor should we just believe everything we hear to be truthful. What they are saying, is that we should look for the best in every situation. We should think positively unless or until the evidence shows the contrary. If the rumor turns out to be true, we should be swift in bearing a wrong; not spreading it around. Proverb 6:18 says that God hates feet that are swift in running to evil. It should be good news that spreads like wildfire, not bad news.
John Wesley had this to say about 1Cor 13:7, “Love covereth all things - Whatever evil the lover of mankind sees, hears, or knows of any one, he mentions it to none; it never goes out of his lips, unless where absolute duty constrains to speak. Believeth all things - Puts the most favourable construction on everything, and is ever ready to believe whatever may tend to the advantage of any one character. And when it can no longer believe well, it hopes whatever may excuse or extenuate the fault which cannot be denied. Where it cannot even excuse, it hopes God will at length give repentance unto life. Meantime it endureth all things - Whatever the injustice, the malice, the cruelty of men can inflict. He can not only do, but likewise suffer, all things, through Christ who strengtheneth him.
The Believer’s Bible Commentary says this, “The expression bears all things may mean that love patiently endures all things, or that it hides or conceals the faults of others. The word bears may also be translated “covers.” Love does not needlessly publicize the failures of others, though it must be firm in giving godly discipline when necessary. Love believes all things, that is, it tries to put the best possible construction on actions and events. Love hopes all things in the sense that it earnestly desires that all things work out for the best. Love endures all things in the way of persecution or ill treatment.
Are you quick to believe every rumor? Are you quick to spread every rumor? If so, then you are not abiding in the love of God; and you are practicing that which God hates. Satan is called the accuser of the bretheren (Rev 12:10), so who do you emulate when you do the same? As children we sing, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Unfortunately, that is far from the truth. Words can do tremendous damage to people’s hearts, marriages, careers, ministries, etc. People have been ruined over accusations that were not even true. A gossiping mouth is the devil’s mouth. We need to give people the benefit of the doubt - especially our brothers and sisters in Christ. We need to believe the best and hope the best. We need to guard our hearts, and not let gossip into our hearts - nor out of our mouths.
Let me tell you a little secret: If you don’t have ears that are tuned into gossip, you will find that very little gossip comes your way. I can honestly say that I hardly hear any gossip, and I believe it’s because it usually dies at my ears. Even in the secular world before I gave my life to Jesus, I was spared from a lot of trouble and problems because I was oblivious to the soap operas going on around me. In this case, ignorance is bliss! I pray you have received some Godly wisdom from this, and that the benefit of the doubt will be regular practice in your life. Until next time, rejoice in The Lord! (Philp 4:4)