I serve as an adjunct professor in biblical studies. The vast majority of assignments lean more towards the academic side as opposed to the practical side. This is not a complaint. Academia is academia. The point of the academy is to inform the mind. This week, however, the assignment had a decidedly practical bent to it.
The topic to be discussed came from 1 Samuel 16:7. The passage says, “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’” Why are we so prone to consider appearance, or height? Why don’t we look at the heart? More importantly, what exactly is “the heart”?
Pride. Yep. Pride is the root sin. Pride, so says C.S. Lewis, is the anti-God state. Every sin can be related to our pride. Pride tells us to consider appearance. You might wonder what pride has to do with our looking at another’s looks, money, status, cars, etc. I believe this is an outworking of pride in that we are judging, or choosing, based off our own criteria instead of God’s criteria. In other words, we act as if we know better than God does. Ouch, right? Hurts me. I do this often. I struggle with outward appearances a great deal, but not necessarily in ways you might be thinking.
Paul says “knowledge puffs up” (1 Cor. 8:1). Knowledge has done this to me. Because of my education, I put far too much stock into another person’s education. I tend to think arrogantly about myself when I people have fewer letters behind their names. When better educated men are around (people with more letters behind their name), I start attempting to show I belong. Why? Who cares? I do… because I’m arrogant. I think this is true in every area of our lives where we start judging more by externals than the heart.
What exactly is “the heart”? In 1 Samuel 16, the person whose heart was examined was David. Yes, David made some terrible choices and committed grave evils (but, so have I; see Matt 5). Yet, David is the author of most of our Psalms. His incessant desire to seek the face of God and follow the law spilled out of his heart and through his lips and hands. In other words, “the heart” can be another way of saying the Lord examines the true heart’s condition, the condition that ultimately affects what someone says and does. There may be people in completely different socio-economic circles than me, but if the person has a heart for Christ, what do those circles matter? There may be people who are drastically different personalities than I. So what? See, Jesus is infinitely better than any human, yet he became human, took on the form of a servant, died on a cross and rose again for God’s glory and our good (Phil. 2). Jesus judged by the heart, not the outward appearance.
This is convicting for me because I judge via externals. I’m a law breaker. When I’m weighed on the scales of God’s law, I am found absolutely wanting. I get annoyed more quickly when people are not like me in many ways except the heart. Yet, shouldn’t the heart be the one thing that unites Christians most strongly? Yes! How then do we start looking at the heart? I believe the pray the Holy Spirit humbles us, and grants us eyes to see who we really are. I believe it involves also praying for the eyes of Christ so that we might see others as he sees them. I believe we just start loving people (1 Cor. 13).
The Lord looks at the heart. The Lord is not impressed by the newest sports car, the largest flat-screen, the most modern looking sanctuary, or even the letters behind anyone’s name. He looks at our heart’s love for Christ. Genuine love for Christ will inevitably lead to us loving what Christ loves.
May the Lord grant us humility to see ourselves truly and others as Christ sees them.