Over the weekend I was reading my son the story of King David and found myself very moved by the Lord’s instructions to Samuel in looking for the new King of Israel among the sons of Jesse:
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at his physical 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)
With the Lord’s instruction, Samuel passed over Jesse’s seven oldest sons, only to find that Jesse hadn’t even brought his youngest son David, a shepherd, to come and see him. The Lord wasn’t looking on the outside, but on the inside. He was looking for a man after His own heart. God didn’t want the biggest, or strongest or most impressive physical specimen. He wanted Samuel to anoint the one whose heart was in the right place.
Wow, is this a powerful lesson we should all keep in mind today. Man judges a book by its cover, however God says it’s what’s on the inside that counts. The first application for this today is to remember that humans do look at the outward appearance. It might not be fair or noble, but it’s the way it is and we should honor God with our bodies by taking pride in our health and physical appearance to the best of our abilities.
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
We should treat our bodies like the temple of the Holy Spirit since they belong to God. However, I believe we can also take from these verses instruction to seek to glorify God with our physical appearance as well, because like it or not, most people we meet will judge us by our outward appearance first, and we should try our best to show up well.
This does not mean we need to buy expensive designer clothes, or spend all our money on fancy hairstyles and makeup while trying to keep up with the latest fashion trends. It also doesn’t mean we should have an unhealthy focus–comparing our physical appearances to the unrealistic portrayals of beauty in the media. It just means we should do our best with what we have. Keeping our clothes clean and pressed and our shoes polished, combing our hair, keeping good personal hygiene, eating healthy and exercising all play into this.
Most importantly, as we seek to glorify God with our bodies, and do our best to keep our appearance together, we must never forget that God looks at our heart and is most concerned with who we are on the inside. While we should do our best to show up well, we also should quit seeking approval from others for our outward appearance and focus on our heart on being pleasing to our Lord. We should seek to look at others through God’s eyes and focus on what they have on the inside above all else.
Even though I am instructing us to hold ourselves to a higher standard and be mindful of how we appear to others, I’m also suggesting, at the same time, that we not judge others by what we see on the outside, and try to seek out their heart as our way to know who they really are. We should work to keep our personal covers nice, but strive to never judge another’s cover especially if it’s a little tattered and torn. As Mother Teresa said:
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
Do you find yourself worrying too much about how others perceive you? Do you strive to see others through God’s eyes? How can you improve in both of these areas today?