In 1884 a young man died. After the funeral his grieving parents determined to establish a memorial to him. With that in mind they met with Charles Eliot, president of Harvard University. Eliot received the unpretentious couple into his office and asked what he could do. After they expressed a desire to fund a memorial, Eliot, noting the appearance of the couple impatiently said, “Perhaps you have in mind a scholarship.”
“We were thinking of something more substantial than that—perhaps a building,” the woman replied. Eliot, in a patronizing tone, brushed aside the idea as being too expensive and the couple departed. The next year, Eliot learned that this unassuming couple had gone elsewhere and established a $26 million memorial named Leland Stanford Junior University, better known today as Stanford University.
How vividly is humanity represented in this illustration. Man looks on the outward appearance—ever concerned with status, achievement, and appraisal of society. How desperately ought man to imitate the assessing character of his Creator: “But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). In our society, unless one meets the standard set by the world he is considered less than others and unworthy consideration.
As detestable as such character is in the world it is even more so when found among God’s people! After hearing the parable of the Good Samaritan, a parable directed specifically at the sin of prejudice, Luke records, “And the Pharisees also, who were covetous, heard all these things: and they derided him” (Luke 16:14). Jesus’ reply speaks volumes, “And he said unto them, Ye are they which justify yourselves before men; but God knoweth your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of God” (Luke 16:15).
How do we look upon our fellowman? Do we consider the appearance or do we consider the person? Moreover, how do we look upon our Christian brethren? When we come to worship God do we see one another as those of like precious faith, or do we rather view our Christian brothers and sisters through the prism of race, class, and social distinction? Consider the admonition of James?
My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons. For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts? Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him? But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats? Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called? If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty (James 2:1-12).
When our Savior walked the earth many of his own people foolishly rejected him because He did not correctly portray what they pictured the Messiah should be. Isaiah prophesied of this saying, “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him” (Isaiah 53:2).
Are we sometimes guilty of looking upon the outward appearance of others? If so, consider that we not only have sin in our lives, but we are also shutting ourselves off from the great joy of true Christian fellowship. We ought not be judgmental of others simply because of appearances or of the common life one leads, rather we should look to the heart and judge others by their character and their love for the Christ.