Why do I look only at the outward appearance of a person instead of getting to know them?

January 16, 2020

As I reflect on Job, I imagine Job’s friends seeing his appearance as they walk toward him. I see each of them forming a conclusion because of what they see.

Job 2:11-13 describes the scene:

“Now, when Job’s three friends heard of all this evil that had come upon him, they came each from his own place, Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. They made an appointment together to come to show him sympathy and comfort him. And when they saw him from a distance, they did not recognize him. And they raised their voices and wept, and they tore their robes and sprinkled dust on their heads toward heaven. And they sat with him on the ground seven days and seven nights, and no one spoke a word to him, for they saw that his suffering was very great.”

Job’s friends see his suffering as great. So much so, they sit with him in silence for seven days and nights. This is an incredible gesture of love and care for Job. The difficulty comes when his friends begin to speak. They create their own equation about Job from what they see: Job’s Appearance + His Friend’s Attitudes= Their Assessment of his situation. The friends assume through their assessment that Job has hidden sin. In their discourse, the friends are certain Job has secretly committed wrongs that have caused his suffering.

In chapter 15, verse 8, Eliphaz says to Job, “Have you listened in the council of God? And do you limit wisdom to yourself?”. The irony of Eliphaz’s question is that Eliphaz is guilty of the presumption of guilt in Job. He believes Job’s suffering is a clear indication of God’s judgment, which is not true. Bildad and Zophar presume the same conclusion. They, too, speak against Job according to their false assumptions.

I have been pondering how often I do this. How often do I look at the outward appearance of someone and presume I understand who they are? How often do I look at the situation of someone’s life and create a conclusion only from what I see? My attitude brings an answer to the equation, and I come to the answer as simple as adding 1 + 1. I don’t even realize I am doing it.

Human nature may lead us to believe the same conclusion as Job’s friends in the pages of Scripture, but the conclusion they reach is wrong.

A word equation entered my mind as I read: Appearance +Attitude= Assessment.

I wonder how many times I naturally make a conclusion about someone and live from what I assume. I wonder how many times I look at people’s outward appearance and assume I understand them instead of getting to know them and more about their situation. The beliefs I create in my mind are just that: my beliefs. I operate from these opinions, but what if what I accept as true is not?

I realize how unfair this is. I would not want someone to do this with me. I know how frustrated I am when this happens.

1 Samuel 16:7 “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.'”

I want to be different. I want to live love and offer grace. I want to let go of my limited knowledge and trust God’s vision above my own.  I want to seek Him in prayer, allowing a new equation to form in my heart and mind:

Appearance + A Surrendered Attitude= An Assessment rising from divine wisdom rather than my own.

The Why Question this week led me to another Why Question. I will add the thoughts of the second question separately, but the question is: Why do I look only at the outward appearance of a situation and assume beliefs about God?

Leave a comment, I’d love to hear your thoughts.


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