Broken Trust: Who Can You Trust?

Today’s crisis of trust may be well deserved, yet it weakens our societies and relationships and robs us of happiness and hope. Is there anyone or anything you can trust?

​Can you trust your neighbor? Your government? The media? Big businesses? Your family? Anyone?

Reported trust in institutions and people varies widely by country. According to, “In countries such as Norway, Sweden and Finland, more than 60% of respondents in the World Value Survey think that people can be trusted. And in the other extreme, in countries such as Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, less than 10% think that this is the case.”

But at whatever level it starts, many experts around the world are tracking a downward trend in trust.

In the United States, for example, back in 1976, 44 percent said “most people can be trusted.” In 2016 only 32 percent agreed.

And the younger generations report being most jaded.

Pew asked, “Generally speaking, would you say that most people can be trusted or that you can’t be too careful in dealing with people?” In 2012 baby boomers were the most trusting at 40 percent, but only 19 percent of millennials chose trust.

But then again, does anyone really trust the polls anymore? And what about governments, institutions and businesses?


To have a just and peaceful world, governments and institutions need to be trustworthy and competent. But too often those who should serve us abuse any trust placed in them.

“The widespread perception that institutions—both public and private—are not acting in the interests of the people they serve pervades the thinking of communities across the globe,” according to a statement by two international business leaders on the World Economic Forum website about “Corruption and the Erosion of Trust.” They noted that even “news organizations, which have historically served as the watchdog for governments and business leaders, are less trusted by the public than ever before.”

Stephanie Thomson, editor of the World Economic Forum, also contrasted the $2 trillion wasted each year on bribes with ways it could help instead:

  • “Wipe out hunger ($116 billion)
  • “Eradicate malaria ($8.5 billion over 7 years)
  • “Bridge the global infrastructure gap ($1 trillion)
  • “Provide basic education to all children ($26 billion).”

Experts say corruption is getting worse in many areas. In a recent study of business ethics in Asia by EY, for example, “Some 63 percent of respondents said that bribery or corrupt practices ‘happen widely’ in their country, up from 60 percent in 2015. And 35 percent cited bribery as ‘common practice’ to win contracts in their industry or sector, up from 31 percent in the 2015 survey” (


Even more devastating than broken trust in organizations is broken trust within families. Robert L. Leahy, a clinical professor of psychology at Weill Cornell University Medical School, wrote this about the decline in trust in marriage:

“You don’t have to be paranoid to realize that it is not unique to find out that your partner has cheated on you. The scandal that unfolded with Ashley Madison—the on-line dating site for married people looking for affairs—revealed that there were 30 million accounts with Ashley Madison. In an on-line survey of 70,000 adults conducted by MSNBC 28% of men and 18% of women admitted to having cheated on their partner (Weaver, 2007). And those are the people who are ‘admitting’ to it.

“It’s not as if there isn’t enough competition for the jealous person to worry about without adding in the ‘threat’ of on-line pornography. … Research shows that 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites—70% of men and 30% of women view pornography weekly, 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography” (“The Decline of Trust,” Psychology Today).

Realism with a side of utter pessimism

Such examples only show the tip of the iceberg of the global trust crisis.

Living through such experiences, many people finally come to the conclusion that we can trust people—we can trust them to do what seems best to them.Living through such experiences, many people finally come to the conclusion that we can trust people—we can trust them to do what seems best to them.

This isn’t always predictable, but over time it seems most humans learn to read the realities—whether corruption or infidelity or scams—and to adapt. We stop expecting or believing things will get better—and eventually we can even stop hoping.

The ancient wisdom of the Bible recognizes this sad reality and warns, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength” (Jeremiah 17:5). Why? Because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (verse 9). Broken trust is but one of the evils pulling humanity down.

But this passage in the book of Jeremiah claims to be a quote from the Creator God Himself, and it also gives the only solution to today’s black hole of trust. God, the source of truth and the One who claims to be the perfect promise-keeper says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is the LORD” (verse 7).

Earlier Moses recorded this about God’s absolute trustworthiness:

“Therefore know that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments” (Deuteronomy 7:9).

We can have unshakable trust in the most trustworthy, faithful Being in this universe—and beyond!

Trust in God under attack

Yeah, right, says our modern world.

Faith in God, even belief that there is a God, seems naive and unrealistic. Ironically, evolutionary theories are often treated as facts and trusted, while the time-tested revelation of the Bible is rejected out of hand.

Evolution and its core principle of survival of the fittest could also explain the human tendency to mistrust and to be untrustworthy. However, it can’t answer so many other questions, such as:

  • How could matter come from nothing?
  • How could life come from nonlife?
  • How could human mind—with consciousness, morality, creativity in art, mathematics, engineering and so much more—come from nonmind?

Put it to the test

Have you accepted the view that mankind evolved and that the Bible is just a set of ancient fables that is full of inconsistencies?

God doesn’t want you to just accept either side without proving it to yourself. The apostle Paul wrote, “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

We challenge you to read two concise study guides and give what the Bible says a fair hearing:

If reading those raises more questions, we have many other articles on our Life, Hope & Truth website that go into even more depth on these and other subjects that are vitally important for your life now and in the future.

But don’t take our word for it. You owe it to yourself to prove it to yourself. If we’re wrong, you have lost nothing but a few hours of time. But if God and the Bible are right, you will gain priceless and eternal benefits.But don’t take our word for it. You owe it to yourself to prove it to yourself. If we’re wrong, you have lost nothing but a few hours of time. But if God and the Bible are right, you will gain priceless and eternal benefits.

The benefits of trusting God

God makes many great and precious promises to those who answer His call and begin to grow in faith in Him. You can read about many of these in our article “God’s Promises: Rock Solid Hope and Assurance.”

When we begin to trust God, we can find meaning and purpose in life. We can look forward to a future beyond what the human mind can imagine now (1 Corinthians 2:9).

The psalmist David expressed it this way: “Trust in the LORD, and do good; dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart” (Psalm 37:3-4).

We don’t have to lose all hope when people and governments betray our trust. The Bible tells us the types of lies and conspiracies we need to beware of. All the other conspiracy worries don’t have to take our time and attention. Instead we can seek first God’s Kingdom and His right way of living (Matthew 6:33).

We can focus on being trustworthy and preparing for a trusted position helping others when Jesus Christ returns to establish a completely faithful government on earth.

When we learn to trust God, we can have real peace of mind and assurance of His promises. As the apostle Paul wrote:

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful, who also will do it” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Read more about the future God has prepared for those who trust in Him in our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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