A number of years ago, I came in from the garage into our house and was greeted by my daughter, then in high school. Megan hit me with a question: "Dad-dee, can I... ?" I cannot remember what the request was, but I remember my answer: "If your mom says it's okay, it is fine with me."

Megan turned around, faced her mom with a smile, and wiggled her left pinky finger in a circle, indicating that she had her daddy wrapped around her little finger. When she turned around and faced me, I smiled and said, "Yes you do, and you don't want to ever do anything to destroy that trust I have in you!"

So where you live, worship, and work is it "Trust!" or "Trust?"

Building a culture of honor depends on how you answer this question. Unfortunately, many of us live in religious or organizational systems where trust has to be earned. In fact, having to earn trust is the assumption that stands behind almost everything in many organizations and even families. Having to earn trust is considered a truism. However, let's ask ourselves a couple of fundamental questions as followers of Jesus.

Did Jesus say we have to win his trust to be considered trustworthy?

In the way the Lord dealt with his disciples, did he show they had to win his trust before he would entrust them with responsibility and leadership?

He did say we needed to be faithful in little to be entrusted with much (Luke 16:10). But, he first trusted them with a little and placed them in situations of opportunity and responsibility. He gave them authority and sent them out under his guidance to do ministry long before they had proved themselves trustworthy of any responsibility (Mark 3:13-15).

So, does anything in the rest of the New Testament suggest that we must earn trust before we should be considered trustworthy?

We do know losing trust can cause a great deal of confusion and conflict. On the first missionary journey of Paul and Barnabas, John Mark deserted the effort and returned home (Acts 13:13). When Barnabas wanted to include him in their second mission effort, Paul — as a driven apostle to the Gentiles — refused. He and Barnabas had such a sharp disagreement about this that they parted company (Acts 15:36-40).

Barnabas, true to his nature as an encourager (Acts 4:32-37), chose to continue to invest in John Mark. Paul, on the other hand, didn't want to spend more time rehabilitating his trust in John Mark because he felt the urgent need to reach the nations who had never heard. However, both Paul and Barnabas extended trust to their helpers and didn't demand that that they earn it first. Paul did this with Silas and Timothy (Acts 15:39-40; Acts 16:1-3). Barnabas did this with John Mark (Acts 15:39).

Yes, these young men came with good reputations, but none of them had proven themselves trustworthy in missionary outreach across cultures. Yet both Paul and Barnabas invested in these younger men like Jesus invested in his disciples. Their first step was to trust that these disciples would prove themselves trustworthy and so they gave them the opportunity and responsibility to serve.

Maybe a modern example can clarify this principle a bit further. Some years ago, the director of a Christian school privately came and asked our youth minister how "his" high school kids at "her" school were so much more focused on living for Jesus, when the other church kids at "her" Christian school seemed far less interested in living for Jesus. He didn't pause for a second in giving his answer:

You expect the kids to misbehave and try to get away with stuff. You don't trust them to do what is right. You even have said this kind of thing publicly at parent's meetings and defined your role as keeping in line. So you have to have all sorts of policies in place to explain the rules and deal with this lack of trust.We, on the other hand, assume that our kids want to honor Jesus. We trust them to do just that. If they mess up, and a lot of them will, we will deal with that directly and lovingly to put them back on the right path. But the majority of the kids do great things because they love Jesus and they know we trust them to demonstrate that in the way they live.

Winning trust is remedial, never primary, in a culture of honor. Winning trust is a corrective for a breach of trust. In a culture of honor, trust is extended because we build our relationships on the basis that our brothers and sisters in Christ are trustworthy.*

Trust is built on the foundation of affirmation, prayer, and service. Trust is reinforced by accountability (which we will address next week). In a culture of honor, trust is given before it is earned.

In addition, in a culture of honor, trust can be reestablished by grace after holding someone accountable. That's what Jesus did with Peter in both confronting him and restoring him to ministry (John 21:1-17).

Even more, in a culture of honor, trustworthiness can be reestablished by being given another opportunity with supervision, after being held accountable for a failure. This is what Barnabas did with John Mark so that John Mark was eventually seen as both trustworthy and useful to the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:9-11).

When we are a grace-filled family, church, organization, or business, we extend grace by trusting that those around us are trustworthy. Even when they blow it, we love them enough to lovingly confront to restore them and allow them to reestablish their trustworthiness.

A culture of honor will always be a culture of trust. When trust exists, people thrive. When trust is earned, people have to work hard to prove they are worthy of being a part of the system. So much energy is lost trying to prove trustworthiness. So much suspicion is built into the system that thriving becomes very difficult and morale is frequently damaged. There is little honor. At best there is personal achievement. There is little grace. At best there is approval.

A culture of honor will be marked by trust because we consider our brothers and sisters in Christ trustworthy. We do this because our Father saw something in us long before anyone else could see anything of value or any reason for trust and our Father chose to see "holy and blameless and beyond reproach" (Colossians 1:19-23 NIV).

* For more on this see Andy Stanley's talk on trust and trustworthiness for organizational health.

For more on the series, Building a Culture of Honor see the following posts: