We live in the age of outward appearance, as consumers who hear the message others want us to hear and see the images they want us to see about products, news, celebrities, and politics. One series of commercials claims to use only “Real People. Not Actors”, although even a little research reveals that it did indeed use actors in some of the segments. (To their credit, they did always use real people–as opposed to fake people, I guess…) Our thoughts and opinions are constantly being influenced by people we don’t know, telling us things we can’t validate. We are perhaps the shallowest culture in history, celebrating people not for who they really are, but for who they appear to be. The Bible’s message is this: Don’t be Fooled by the outward appearance: It’s What’s Inside that Counts.
“When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed stands here before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7, NIV) Samuel, a prophet of God, was called upon to select Israel’s next king from among Jesse’s sons. He watched them parade before him one by one, and his first impression was that Eliab certainly looked like the one. He was big and nice looking.
Samuel’s first reaction was to evaluate the young men based on how strong or kingly they looked, but the Lord told him that appearances can be deceiving. That’s so true, isn’t it? We often hear about situations with a celebrity that end badly, or see something on the news about a heinous crime committed by a seemingly ordinary person and think, “No way!” It’s hard for us to accept that a funny person was actually struggling with depression, or a pretty young wife and mom was killed by her husband (who is smiling beside her in all of the pictures), but it’s often the sad case.
As shallow human beings, we tend to look on the outward appearance, when the truth is on the inside… We can’t truly evaluate people based on what they look like publicly because that can be contrived, and it doesn’t show the whole picture, does it? Think about it: have you ever smiled and said something nice to somebody while you hid your dislike, or arrogance, or impatience? Was your outward appearance different than your inner motive? What we see in this world is limited; what God sees is not.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” It is in the heart that motives arise, and the way people look on the outside isn’t always the way they really are (think: Hollywood or American politics, sigh…). Old sayings exist for a reason, and we’ve all heard that beauty is only skin deep. So is public image. In an age where we are bombarded with half-truths and insinuations, it’s very difficult to gain true understanding from shallow information.
Obviously, there are two ways for this to go: first, don’t be too quick to judge or evaluate others based on mere outward appearances. Who they seem to be may not be who they actually are. And second, remember that who YOU seem to be on the outside is not necessarily who you really are. Jesus challenged his followers to beware of what came out of the abundance of their hearts, and to be brutally honest with the Father. It’s logical to do business with God without any smokescreens, because He knows your heart anyway. Keep it real. Confess truthfully. Repent passionately. And follow the advice of Proverbs 4:23: “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it flow the issues of life.”
Look at a celebrity: you’ve probably seen them on TV,
Chased by paparazzi, fans, or sailing on their yacht.
Even if you’re not the type to fall for shallow marketing hype,
You cannot help but think perhaps they’re something that you’re not.
But although fame and money hide the truth of who they are, inside,
Divorces, drugs and suicide contaminate the dream:
If you are tempted to bow down to cultural icons of renown,
Consider that these people may just not be who they seem.
So when we stand before the throne to face our God all on our own,
We can’t rely on the money we made, or if we played a part.
We cannot take assurance from our external appearance,
For the Lord looks not on outward things; He looks upon our heart.
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