By Joe R. Price
Men and women are obsessed with appearance. There is nothing wrong with grooming and personal hygiene, and we are certainly not condemning due attention to these (cf. 1 Cor. 11:14). But it is undeniably true that many people are only concerned with their exterior beauty. They neglect the inner man. The commercials which bombard us on TV testify to the inordinate amount of attention given to the appearance of men and women. Everything from diet plans to beer drinking are supposed to enhance one’s looks (and outlook) on life. Truly, we live in a humanistic society!
God, our Creator and Sustainer (Acts 17:24-25), sees us in a very different way. When the prophet Samuel was directed to anoint a new king for Israel, he was sent to the house of Jesse. Upon seeing Jesse’s firstborn, Samuel was sure this was “Jehovah’s anointed” (1 Sam. 16:1-6). Eliab must have been a fine looking young man. Like their present king Saul, whose appearance was stately and handsome (1 Sam. 9:2), Eliab seemed to “fit the bill.” But God wanted Israel to learn a lesson which we must,also learn: “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have rejected him: for Jehovah seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but Jehovah looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). The fact that God knows men’s hearts led him to select David to be the next king of Israel (Acts 13:22).
Exercising the Heart
What does this have to do with you and me? Plenty. In the current atmosphere of our self-pleasing culture, the Christian must avoid thinking of himself, others and this life on merely a physical, external basis. Since God looks on our hearts, should we not be more concerned with our souls than our bodies? Of course we should! If we would give as much care to our hearts as we do our hair, teeth, makeup, physique, etc., I dare say that we would be much more like Christ (Gal. 2:20)! We prepare our bodies to make the best possible impression upon those who see us, but are we forgetting to prepare our hearts for the One who sees and knows our every thought (1 Kgs. 8:39; Psa. 139:1)? The world values the importance of enhancing the outer man, and we have already said there is nothing wrong with concern over physical appearance. But when the Christian becomes more interested in his body than in his soul, priorities have been misplaced. “And exercise thyself unto godliness: for bodily exercise is profitable for a little; but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life which now is, and of that which is to come” (1 Tim. 4:7-8). Men may only look at your body, but God looks at your heart. Have you done any “heart exercises” lately?
The Inner Man
This matter of God looking on the heart also says something to anyone who thinks he is only made of flesh and bones. “This life is all there is” is the rallying cry of the hedonist. But to the reflective person it is apparent that man is more than merely flesh. We possess a reasoning capacity (intelligence) and a moral capacity (conscience). These defy a physical origin and explanation of man. The Bible teaches that God created man as a dual being, possessing both body and spirit (Gen. 2:7). There is that part of every one of us which is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27). It is the inner man, that part of man which God looks upon. Thusly made, we must “walk by faith, not by sight” as we seek a heavenly home for the inner man (2 Cor. 4:16-5:10).
Like David, we must become people “after God’s own heart. ” Seeing this quality, God knew that David would “do all my will” (Acts 13:22). Obedience to the divine will is made possible only when our hearts are right with God. We must cultivate the type of heart which is honest, open, responsive, submissive and obedient to all of God’s commands. Does this mean that when men develop such a heart we will never sin? No, for David surely did and so do we (Psa. 51:1-4, 1 Jn. 1:7-10). That line of thinking misses the point. In truth, it is only the obedient heart which will care enough about God’s will to repent of sin and to become what God wants him to be! When we truly care about God’s will, we will learn it (through diligent study, 2 Tim. 2:15) so that we can obey it in our life (Lk. 8:15). Can it be said that we are people after God’s own heart?
Appearances Can Deceive
Finally, we should learn that since God does not judge on the basis of appearance, neither should we (Jn. 7:24). When something appears a certain way to us, we had better make sure of it through proper investigation, lest we misrepresent and do a great deal of damage. Since we cannot know men’s hearts unless they tell us (unlike God), we must be careful when drawing conclusions about situations and people. This is not to say that we cannot properly render necessary judgments, for we can (cf. Matt. 5:16-20; 7:15-20; Gal. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 5:3-5). For instance, people often reveal their motives and objectives by their conduct. But always remember that Jesus said to ‘Judge righteous judgment. ” We must use the divine standard of revealed truth to guide our judgments. Never let mere appearances dictate decisions (cf. Matt. 6:1-8).
Remember to see things the way God sees them!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 18, p. 549
September 17, 1992