Things are not always as they appear.
There is an area of town where I live with beautiful, expensive homes. People who live in these luxurious surroundings drive expensive cars. By all appearance, they are successful. Many are.
However, appearance can be deceptive.
It’s known that some people who live in these homes are on the verge of bankruptcy. Some live in beautiful dwellings but cannot invite friends into their homes because they only have a few essential furniture items.
In their attempt to project a successful image on the outside, they cannot risk allowing people to see the inside.
Samuel, a prophet of God, was responsible for selecting a king for Israel. At God’s instructions, he invites Jesse to a sacrifice (an offering made to the Lord). Samuel observes Jesse’s sons, all potential candidates to replace King Saul.
When Eliab (Jesse’s eldest son) passes in front of Samuel, he thinks: “Surely, the Lord’s anointed is before him” (1 Sam. 16:6).
What God speaks to Samuel is something we need to remember as well:
“But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” - 1 Samuel 16:7 (ESV)
It’s easy to observe the outward appearance while failing to see what’s inside a person. From all (outward) appearances, those who live in wealthy houses and drive pricey automobiles radiate an impressive persona but may not be authentic.
It’s tempting to watch churches explode with growth and assume, “Surely, they must be the Lord’s anointed.” But remember: Appearances can be deceptive.
Yes, it’s possible that God honestly blesses growing churches and ministries. I pray that is the case. However, God does not measure our integrity, purity, or sincerity by our outward image. God looks at our hearts.
Character, integrity, purity, sincerity, discernment, courage, humility, empathy, and compassion are attributes of the heart, not skills, talent, or marketing techniques.
It’s tempting to convince ourselves that our efforts are to further the growth of God’s Kingdom. We want to believe that what we are doing is for God. But without intentional time to allow God to evaluate our hearts, we can easily give a false impression to ourselves and others.
I think King David – though not perfect – had it right. His prayer is timely for me as well:
“Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!
- Psalm 139:23 (ESV)
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