“…man looketh on the outward appearance…” (1 Sam. 16:7b)
All of you can finish the title, and most of you could finish the scripture. “What you see is what you get,” is a familiar saying today; and the verse in 1 Samuel declares that although man looks on the outward appearance, “God looketh on the heart.” I have two things to say about these. 1) What you see is hardly ever what you get; and 2) although our first inclination will always be to judge by appearance because we’re unable to see the heart, that doesn’t mean we should trust our first impressions. Case in point:
How does this sound for a first impression: “A choice young man, and a goodly…not among the children of Israel a goodlier person than he: from his shoulders and upward…higher than any of the people” (1 Sam. 9:2). Pretty impressive, wouldn’t you say? Yet, when the chips were down and they needed someone to fight God’s enemy, King Saul cowered in a tent, while a young kid, far less impressive than he, defeated the giant and won the day with unconventional weapons and a burning desire to do something for God.
Let’s face it, you and I would have chosen Saul, the giant of a man on the outside over little David with his sling, a giant of a man on the inside. There are some Christians who come off as spiritual giants at first glance because of their exclusive “holier than thou” demeanor (Isa. 65:5), or their string of pious platitudes; while, on the other hand, there are saints of God who carry a depth of soul and holy purpose, undreamed of by the casual observer, within what you and I would call unlikely bodies of clay. If this is true, you and I must have spiritual discernment enough to know the difference.
“But we can’t see the heart,” you say. No, but we can judge our own, and we can determine to let (only) the Word of God and the Spirit of God within us make the final judgment as to the authenticity of those we meet. I don’t know about you, but I’d hate to miss a young David while fawning over a Saul.
As I say, what you see is hardly ever what you get. Sometimes it’s much more; and sometimes, it’s far less.