We have all heard the phrase “Don’t judge a book by its cover” and most of us would agree that is a good principle. The way people look or the things they support are not necessarily the best judge of their character as people.
This principle is actually from Scripture though. In the book of James it says, “If a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes and say, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and you say to the poor man, ‘You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,’ have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?” (James 2:2-4). Clearly the issue here is treating the man in fine clothes with much more respect and honor just because he is dressed in fine clothes. The message to the poor man is actually really insulting. To sit down by one’s footstool was a tremendous insult in that culture. Some chairs that were reserved for important people had a smaller pedestal to put their feet on, almost like an ottoman. Notice these people didn’t say you could sit on my footstool, but that you can sit on the ground ‘by my footstool.’ In essence, you can sit lower than my feet. A decision that was made simply because of the way he looked.
I know we all admit that judging by appearance is wrong, but we all need to admit that we do it too. Recently, I was confronted by this in my own heart. There is a house here in Shafter that is known as the Halloween house. Maybe you have seen it in the days leading up to Halloween. The front of the house is decorated for Halloween that makes all other decorated house seem lame! This person goes over the top to make his house ready for Halloween. And, I always assumed that the person who owns that house was probably not a Christian, probably was fascinated with death and macabre, and we should avoid that place and getting to know him.
However, since I have been involved in planning this big concert coming up on November 12th, I have had the privilege of meeting and working with different people from the community. One such person is a man who is a wonderful loving Christian. He is joyful all the time, he is passionate about reaching youth in our community, he comes to every meeting, and he is excited about helping out in any way he can. Oh, and he is the owner of the Halloween house.
When he invited me over to see his Halloween house I could feel the conviction of the Holy Spirit right away. I knew what I had assumed about the people living there and I felt ashamed about it. That passage in the book of James came flooding into my memory. I had even assumed that person was not even a Christian just because of the way he decorated his house! What a lesson in judging I received from the Lord.
I write this article just by way of reminder. Every once in a while we need to hear again that which we already know. We can’t assume that we know people simply by seeing what they look like, or even what their house looks like! As a young person, don’t assume that an older person cannot have any advice or help to offer you. As an older person, don’t assume that a teenager is living a rebellious lifestyle just because their clothes look a little odd. Let’s hold off judgment until we get to know people.
Pastor Mark Scialabba