The Word This Week

James 2:1...

What can you tell about a person by their outward appearance?

Actually, you can tell a whole lot.

You can tell approximately how much money they make, what their sense of personal taste and style is, perhaps their favorite color, what sex they are, and whether they are practicing good personal hygiene. You can also tell what temperature it is outside, and whether they have a reasonably good idea what size they are.

Like I said, that’s a whole lot. And there’s probably even more than that.

First impressions about a person are very important – and can be very difficult to overcome. Statistics from cultural and anthropological studies reveal much about what takes place in the first few moments of our introduction to someone we have not met before. Almost all those first impressions are formed by the apparel and neatness of and build of the person, and whether we think them good looking or not. Again, studies have shown ‘good-looking’ people are far more likely to be well-received by others.

Even the best of us are subject to the impressions created by external appearance. One of the finest and best-portrayed men of the Old Testament, Samuel the prophet, thought for sure David’s oldest brother was to be the new king of Israel God had called him to ordain based on his outward appearance alone. He looked like a king, just as Saul had looked the part of a king before. (Part of the reason God had Samuel ordain Saul WAS because he looked like a king. He was head and shoulders taller than anyone in Israel at the time, and he was reported as the best-looking man in the country.)  

But Saul, who began as a humble man, became rotten on the inside as the people built him up in his pride to the extent he became unfaithful to God and was deposed as a result – causing God to command Samuel to go ordain another man king to replace Saul. And then Samuel almost made the same mistake again. (And would have had God not intervened, telling Samuel, “Man looks on the outside, by God looks on the inside.”)

And this is the entire point of what James addresses next in our study. At the church door, and even outside the church door, we are never to judge man by outward appearance. All are equal - and to be equally treated - at the foot of the cross.

Pastor Bill