What we see with our eyes is often not the whole picture. Yet, how quickly we judge based on first impressions. While reading the story of Hannah (1 Samuel chapter 1), I was reminded of the importance of giving people the benefit of the doubt. This story takes place in Israel during the high priesthood of Eli (before any kings reigned). Hannah and her husband Elkanah visited God’s temporary temple in Shiloh…along with Elkanah’s other wife, Peninnah. This was not a happy family. Peninnah had children, Hannah had none, and Peninnah cruelly reminded Hannah of her barrenness. One day Hannah went to the temple and poured out her heart to God in prayer. The Bible tells us, “As she continued praying before the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard. Therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman” (1 Samuel 1:12-13). Eli observed, assumed, and spoke harsh words of judgment over Hannah. He was dead wrong! I have often thought about Eli’s mistake and wondered how many times I have done the same thing. We don’t observe Eli praying to God, or asking questions of Hannah, but simply assuming he knew what was going on. I remember a time when a young man complained about the injustices of his parents. When I saw the parents later in the week, my first thought was, How could these parents be so mean? But, after talking to the parents, my eyes were opened. The young man was enmeshed in a life of lies, blaming his parents for all his mistakes. I should have remembered the truth that “there are two sides to every story.” After talking to Hannah, Eli realized that she was pouring out her soul before the Lord (verse 15). We could save ourselves a lot of embarrassment, as well as spare others the brunt of our ignorant words, if we would learn from Eli’s mistake. Through the love of Jesus, let’s give others the benefit of the doubt!
Pastor Mark Boucher