1 Samuel 16:7 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 man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”
This is a justly famous verse, but we tend to not take it seriously. The world is all about appearances, often to a disturbing degree. I don’t know if it’s still on, but at one point there was a US TV show called Hot or Not, that was entirely about whether people looked physically desirable. Even without that extreme, physical and especially visual evaluation is constantly with us. Such diseases as anorexia are one of the results. The whole point of what God is saying here is that physical things aren’t bad, but they are often a distraction. Every once in a while this reality gets through to people, but all too seldom. I’m doing a wedding later this month. When the couple came for counseling I had an opportunity to talk with the groom alone, and I asked him what attracted him to his bride. He said it was the way she seemed to care about him and his needs, really listening to him, rather than physical beauty. (Incidentally, she’s not ugly, but she’s not what the world would call beautiful.) I think that’s a very hopeful sign for a good marriage! Physically beautiful people can have beautiful souls, but sometimes there’s almost a negative correlation. If we are obsessed with how we look, the less likely we will be focused on the things that really matter. This whole issue is part of our fixation on the physical world. Jesus stated clearly that we are in the world but not of it. (John 17:14-15) Paul pointed out that “What is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal,” (2 Corinthians 4:18) and went on to say that “We live by faith, not by sight.” 2 Corinthians 5:7) That fits perfectly with what God told Samuel.
I am certainly not immune to judging by outward appearance, and I do like to look nice to others, but the older I get the easier it is to pay more attention to what is inside of people. At the same time, I am aware of the truth of what Abraham Lincoln is reported to have said, that after age 40 a person’s face is a reflection of what is on the inside. Our life experiences, and more importantly, our reactions to them, tend to get written on our faces. Even so, I am to seek to let God show me how He sees people. I have seen transformations in people’s appearance, even, as they have come to know and trust God’s love for them. The thing is, God loved them just as much before they opened up to Him as He did after. I need to see each individual as exactly that: an individual God created and loved and wants to be in right relationship with Him. Different people are gifted differently, and evaluating that accurately is an important part of leadership, but different gifts don’t mean different value as human beings. James’ remarks about favoritism (James 2:1-13) apply as much to gifting as they do to finances. If I will see people as God does, then He will be able to use me to grow them into what He intends them to be.
Father, thank You for Your grace to me. Help me indeed extend that grace to all those around me, not based on externals but on Your love, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!