JUDGING BY APPEARANCES
Rev. David O. Jones

It is so easy to judge by appearance. The externals are immediately available to us. Externals, as the idiom says, “slap us in the face.” We can deal with externals so much more comfortably than take the time to discover the root causes or motivations.

Two situations have been related to me in the last few days. A friend at church related his experience in teaching a teenaged Korean Sunday School class. After a few weeks teaching he had several people inquire if he was having trouble with “Jim” (name changed to protect the truly innocent), for Jim had been the resident trouble-maker. My friend was more than a little confused because Jim was his “go-to” guy in the class – bright and always ready with the correct answer. He couldn’t fathom that the inquiries were about the Jim he knew. Upon further investigation he discovered that the previous teacher (with whom Jim had been such a problem) spoke primarily Korean in the class. Jim along with a couple other boys speak only English. Jim and his cohorts couldn’t understand what was going on in the class and reverted to talking amongst themselves and creating disruptions. The problem was the teacher, not the student.

A parent enrolling her child with Heritage Covenant told of her problems with both the public system and a private school where her child had been labeled on various occasions as learning disabled or ADD. The teachers wanted the child assigned to a special ed classroom or drugged. The parent didn’t take the “expert’s” advice, but had the child independently evaluated. The real problem it seems is that the child just needed a little (and I emphasize just a little) individual instruction to bring him up to speed. His attention deficit was due to simply not understanding what was going on. The problem was the teacher, not the student.

How easy it is for us all to judge by the externals. Saul was chosen as the first king of Israel. He was “a choice and handsome man…From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people” (1 Samuel 9:2).  He looked really good, but his heart strayed from following God. On the other hand, the second king of Israel was the eighth son of Jesse, a short fellow of ruddy appearance. He appeared to like his music better than manly pursuits, so was shuffled off to tend the sheep. When the prophet Samuel came to Jesse’s house looking for the man to anoint as the next king of Israel, David wasn’t even called to show up. After rejecting seven sons of Jesse, Samuel had to ask if Jesse, “Are all the young men here?” (1 Samuel 16:11) Neglected, but it was David whose lineage would establish an eternal kingdom as his descendent Mary became the mother of Jesus.

God doesn’t concern himself with the externals. When Samuel was directed to anoint David, the Scripture tells us, “the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Man is a sinner. And sin clouds his vision. We cannot see someone’s heart. We cannot clearly understand someone’s motives. We can neither think nor act in purity. God spoke through the prophet Isaiah, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8,9).

It becomes our responsibility in response to the grace we have received through Jesus Christ to first of all, “Keep your heart with all diligence, For out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).  And keeping our hearts requires the diligence of continually feeding on God’s Word, “For the LORD gives wisdom; From His mouth come knowledge and understanding; He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; He is a shield to those who walk uprightly” (Proverbs 2:6,7).  God’s Word cannot be surpassed in giving us the understanding and wisdom necessary to deal with others and especially those of our own household.
We have a responsibility to make every effort to view others as God would. Although we cannot view someone’s heart, we can seek to know where their heart is, to know what their motivations are. Does my child speak the same language as I do? Does my child learn at the same pace or in the same manner that I do?

For the sake of Christ our Saviour, let us resolve to make the time and effort to become more equipped to understand the real issues, the true causes and core motivations of those He has placed in our household.