Looks Can Be Deceiving

Looks Can Be Deceiving

By Pastor Karen

So often we see people around us who we don’t know, nor have we spoken to them and yet in a moment we decide what that person is feeling or what is going on. The truth is we really don’t know, no matter what we think we see. It’s so easy to decide we know!


In 1st Samuel 16 God sends Samuel the prophet to anoint a new king. Samuel thought he knew which of Jesse’s sons he should anoint as king. But as he prepared to anoint one of the sons God said “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7 NRSV)

If Samuel, who was a prophet of God Most High, couldn’t see who was or wasn’t the right son to anoint, how do we think we know what’s really going on with people we see, simply by observing their faces or their movements? It is so easy to make snap judgments based on what a person is like,  their socio-economic situation, whether they are a good person or a bad person from what we observe.

The Bible offers more than just Samuel’s miscalculation about which son would be monarch. There was also Eli who mistook Hannah (Samuel’s mother) as being drunk when she was really praying quietly in the temple of the Lord (1 Samuel 1), Judah who mistakenly thought Tamar was a prostitute (Genesis 38),  the Pharisees and scribes and Sadducees who rejected Jesus as their Messiah because he wasn’t who they expected so they thought he was from Beezebul, the the ruler of the demons (Luke 11).

Dinner with Simon

In Luke 7, Simon, a Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner. A woman came to anoint Jesus’ feet with costly perfume while he was at the table. Simon was sure that Jesus could not be a prophet if he did not know what kind of woman this was who was touching him. But Jesus did know. What Simon didn’t know, by looking at Jesus and the woman, was that Jesus had forgiven her and now she was so full of love and thanksgiving, she came to anoint his feet and wipe them with her hair. Simon, in his condescending view of what he could see of her, could not imagine that she could be made whole and change from what he ‘knew’ she was.

God sees our hearts

Thankfully, God knows the hearts of all of us as our scripture reminds us. Our job is to remain open and listening, alert to the fact we don’t know a person’s heart or the story of his or her life. We don’t know the possibilities God may have for this person.

Samuel might have anointed the wrong king if he had not remained open to the possibility that even though these men were good looking and of good stature by their appearances, none of them was God’s choice for king. Seeing no one else there Samuel asked, ‘Are all your sons here?’ The answer was ‘No‘ And Jesse sent for David. He wasn’t who Samuel expected. He was young and a shepherd, used to keeping sheep, not leading people. But looks can be deceiving! He was exactly who God wanted as the King of Israel! God could see a dimension that neither Samuel nor his brothers could see—David’s heart.  God knew David’s unfailing love and devotion for God, his courage, honesty, and his leadership qualities. But none of these were evident by simply looking at him.

Seeing Jesus

I challenge us, for the sake of Jesus, to suspend our judgments about other people and to remember Jesus said when we see a hungry or thirsty person, a stranger, someone sick, in prison or naked,  we might actually be seeing Jesus. (Matthew 25) Jesus identifies with those we often reject, condemn or ignore. Jesus sees them and invites us to see each of them in a whole new way – as someone Jesus loves.