We often say things in everyday conversation without much thought as to their original meaning. Think about this statement: all that glitters is not gold. Have you ever said that? It is thought to go back to the 12th century when a French theologian said, “Do not hold everything gold that shines like gold”.
Gold is a very bright metal of course, dazzling and very captivating, attractive to the eye—but what does this proverb mean in everyday life? I think a simple definition is all may not be as it appears. Because something looks good, does not necessarily mean it is—don’t be fooled by outward appearances. The geological rock formation known as ‘Fool’s Gold’ is commonly mistaken for real gold because it looks so good. So indeed, everything that glitters need not be gold.
Things May Not Be What They Seem
The psalmist in Psalm 73 almost got trapped in his thinking—he confessed, “I almost stumbled and fell, because it made me jealous to see proud and evil people and to watch them prosper” (Psalm 73:2-3). He forgot what was really important in his life, as can happen with us. Things are not always as they seem is another way of saying all that glitters is not gold.
You may have had that perfect job or perfect relationship and one day that idea of perfection is gone, alone with the job or relationship. Or you or someone you know is healthy one day and experiencing unexpected illness the next. Lives have been turned around and upside down. Things are not as they seem.
Sometimes something you least expected becomes a reality. Jesus said some incredible words in John 7:24: “Don’t judge by appearances. Judge by what is right”. Another translation says, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly”. One of our big issues today is the persistent tendency to judge according to appearance. We judge a person according to his looks. We judge a used car by its body. We judge a book by its cover. No matter how often we are disappointed and disillusioned, we stubbornly refuse to learn that all is not gold that glitters.
What Our Culture Value Most
In his book Hide or Seek, Dr James Dobson says that physical beauty is the most highly valued personal attribute in our culture. We have made it what he calls the gold coin of human worth. Thus a beautiful child is more favoured by adults than a plain one. Teachers tend to give better grades to attractive children. Pretty children get less discipline than others. Have you found that to be true?
Then there’s the matter of money or riches. We need to remember what the Bible says in 1 Timothy 6:10:
The love of money causes all kinds of trouble. Some people want money so much that they have given up their faith and caused themselves a lot of pain.
Money! How many times have you thought: If only I didn’t have to worry about money, life would be easy? Did you know that Jesus had more to say about money than he did about heaven? He realised, of course, that money was going to give us lots of trouble, and he wanted us to know how to deal with this love of money problem.
In fact, he warned us that we cannot serve both God and money, and that statement in itself tells us that we can be a slave to money and it can hold a lordship over our lives. Proverbs 30:8-9 gives us some good advice: “Make me absolutely honest and don’t let me be too poor or too rich. Give me just what I need. If I have too much to eat, I might forget about you; if I don’t have enough, I might steal and disgrace your name”.
If you think that all your problems would be solved by someone giving you a lot of money, think again. Having a lot of money would be disastrous for most of us, for we would soon love it and depend on it and look to it for our security.