Listen: Chris Witts presents Morning Devotions.
TV shows seem to delight in telling us about people who are overweight and, by taking some steps to improve themselves, lose weight and take on a new and attractive appearance.
Many of us like to watch these episodes because the change is quite amazing. Along with their physical appearance, you also watch their personalities change as well. They are not so shy—they smile more, laugh more. It seems their appearance changes everything. The transformation can be quite amazing.
But there is a concern here and that is a question I want to put today. Why does our physical appearance determine our emotional wellbeing? If I lose some weight, I’m happy. If I gain weight, I’m sad.
Is this what life’s all about? Of course not. But if you look at some of the industries around, you’ll see there’s big money to be made—clothing, cosmetics, plastic surgery, diets. Surveys show that most people who lose weight eventually put much of it back on again! We realise that beauty is only skin-deep, but that doesn’t stop us from doing everything we can to make that skin look good. We live in a very self-engaged society. Everyone is caught up in their own thing or things, as they carry out tasks that are at the top of their list of priorities—much just for ‘appearance’s sake’. Perhaps it’s to feed our ego or help us feel better.
Why do we spend so much time, money and effort trying to look good? The trouble is, nothing lasts forever. You might be an attractive person today—but who says that will last forever?
Appearance, Achievement and Affluence
One author I heard about says that today many of us are caught up in what he calls the 3 A’s: appearance, achievement, and affluence.
Our appearance is important; no-one wants to be ugly. It’s good to do our best in that department—but I want to say that God sees things differently. This is his nature. God is not all that interested in your clothes, your car or if your home is tidy. The Bible tells me in 1 Samuel 16:7, “People judge others by what they look like, but I judge people by what’s in their hearts”. I think that is a terrific verse. In other words, God looks on the heart, deep down to what is really going on inside us. We live in a world where appearances do really matter—we have to keep up appearances.
“Looks were not what drew people to Jesus… It was his soul. His heart. It was the way he treated people.”
But it’s interesting to note there is nowhere in the Bible where Jesus’ appearance is mentioned. He probably didn’t have wavy brown hair or blue eyes—his looks were not what drew people to him. He was not George Clooney. It was his soul. His heart. It was the way he treated people. And I think that gets us onto the reality path.
God Cares More About Your Heart
God cares more about the size of our heart than the size of our waist. God is not interested in appearance. You can impress people all you like, but he looks straight into your heart, called ‘the seat of the emotions’, to find out what you’re really like. Real beauty and strength and wisdom and integrity and leadership is not found upon the surface but far deeper where no eye can see or camera can photograph.
Just because something looks good and beautiful does not mean it is, and just because something looks less impressive does not mean that lying below the surface there are not depths of beauty and goodness. In the classic tale The Velveteen Rabbit, this point is made beautifully. The story traces the life of a beloved stuffed rabbit who wanted to become real. But it was not until it had been worn and aged through years of being snuggled, carried about, and exposed to difficult conditions—leaving it splotched and raggedy—that it found its true place of belonging and love and became ‘real’.
In our own lives we can see the folly and misfortune and emptiness by judging only upon the outward appearance of things.
In John 7 in the New Testament Jesus said, “Don’t judge by appearances. Judge by what is right”.
Read more Morning Devotions by Chris Witts.