Faith vs Trust

Faith and Trust: Each are five letters and both have significant meaning.  Related to each other, yet very different. When I used a common search engine to search for the term “having faith” the first result seemed simple enough.

“Faith means relying on God” by Rick Warren (link to devotion)

I am not here to agree or disagree with Rick Warren.  However, I think that simple phrase, by such a popular Christian teacher, is an excellent example of unintentional confusion.  Rick Warren is not the first to define faith in that way.  Mirriam-Webster first definition of faith is “strong belief or trust in someone or something.”  How do the scriptures define faith?

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Hebrews 11:1 ~ ESV

The author of Hebrews defined faith as an assurance or conviction.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?  If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.  You believe that God is one; you do well.  Even the demons believe – and shudder!  

James 2:14-19 ~ ESV

James defines faith as belief and separates that belief from the evidence of works.

I wrote earlier that Rick Warren’s statement is an example of unintentional confusion.  If we turn to scripture to define faith for us, I’ve given two examples which define faith as a belief, assurance, or conviction.  Faith is better defined as a feeling and not defined as an action in those two examples.  The unintentional confusion is that the word faith has been elevated to a meaning beyond its intended origin.  By unintentionally assuming that faith is enough, one must remember that James warned that even the demons believe.

Most of us have seen a video or perhaps even participated in a trust fall exercise.  One person stands with their eyes closed and falls backwards trusting their partner behind them to catch them.  I recently saw a video in which a woman was standing on a platform about three feet off of the ground, with no one else around.  She turned around, closed her eyes and started counting down.  As she counted, people came quietly out of hiding and lined up behind her and linked arms.  When she reached zero, she fell backwards, trusting her team would be there even though she hadn’t seen them arrive.

Applying the definition from Hebrews and James, the woman had faith before she fell backwards.  She could not see her team, yet she believed they were there.   She could have said, “I know you are there and thank you for being willing to catch me,” and ended the exercise.  Of course, the intent of the exercise is not faith, but trust.

In the Hebrew language the words emunah and bitachon are used to explain faith and trust.

The Rambam defines emunah as the knowledge that Hashem created and continues to run all of Creation.

Bitachon, however, is quite different. Bitachon means trust. The Chovos HaLevavos defines bitachon as relying on Hashem, trusting Hashem. It is a sense of depending on Him to watch over and protect me.

Amazingly, a person can have emunah and not bitachon. He can know that Hashem runs the world, but not necessarily trust in Him.

The Difference Between Emunah and Bitachon
Rabbi Ben Tzion Shafier
Orthodox Union

I highly doubt that Rabbi Shafier would have used the New Testament letter from James as the basis for his definition, however, their thought processes are similar.  Rabbi Shafier explains that a person can have faith in Hashem, but not necessarily trust in Him.  This has a very similar undertone to what James wrote by segregating the two.  Even the demons believe in Hashem, but they certainly do not trust in Him.

In my earlier example, if the woman had stopped counting, and simply proclaimed, “I know you are there and thank you for being willing to catch me,” she would have exercised faith without trust.  It is obvious to us as we read this that had she only expressed faith, it is impossible for us to believe in that faith because faith can not be seen.  She proved her faith by showing trust through action.  Perhaps a better explanation of trust is the physical manifestation of one’s faith.

As I was preparing to write this post, I prayed for guidance, as I try to do each time I sit down to study.  An immediate thought that came to mind was the trust needed for the Israelites as they fled from Pharaoh’s army.

The Children of Israel came within the sea on dry land; and the water was a wall for them, on their right and on their left.

Exodus 15:22
Stone Edition Artscroll English Tanach

Put yourself in the sandals of the Israelites for a moment.  You’re standing at the bank of a large body of water.  Large enough that the rest of the story explains it took all night for Israel to cross the dry sea bed.  As these people cross through a dry land passage way, water standing tall to their left and right, held only by the power of God.  Israel trusted that God would hold the waters for them as they passed.

When this story came to my mind, I was unsure if it was a good example to use.  After all, shortly before Israel walked across a dry sea bed, they cried out to Hashem and asked Moses if he brought them to the wilderness only to die because there were not enough graves in Egypt.  I thought of this as a complete lack of faith so soon after they had been able to walk out of Egypt carrying their plunder of gold and silver.

I decided to turn to a search engine and sought to find if bitachon was used in any scripture.

Avoteinu trusted in Thee; they had bitachon, and Thou didst deliver them. They cried unto Thee, and were delivered; they had bitachon in Thee, and were not disappointed.

Tehillim 22:5-6 ~ Orthodox Jewish Bible

In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them.  To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.

Psalm 22:4-5 ~ ESV

It felt like a confirmation that I was on the right path of understanding.  I am unsure if David was thinking of Israel crying out just before they ran into the dry sea bed, or if he was thinking of when they cried out initially while still in Egypt.  If I had to guess, he was probably speaking of the latter.  However, I believe my example still holds value.  To walk on a dry sea bed, through a corridor of two giant walls of water, with nothing holding it back, took tremendous trust that the water would not fall.  Bitachon.

How do we apply this today?  First, we need to redefine faith as belief and hold trust as the higher principle.  Scripture has given us the definitions we should use, so we should not deviate.  James, David, and the author of Hebrews have given us great examples.

Faith is a feeling.  Trust is action showing proof of faith.

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