Proverbs 13:7 (NKJV)
7There is one who makes himself rich, yet has nothing; And one who makes himself poor, yet has great riches.
Paul writes in Romans 8:29 that God has predestined His people to be conformed to the image of His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. The Proverbs assist us in that process, directing us in the way of wisdom and teaching us what it is to imitate our Lord’s character. Today we are instructed to beware judging by appearances.
Masterpiece Theatre’s retelling of Charles Dickens’ novel, Our Mutual Friend, opens with a wedding, the wedding of Mr. & Mrs. Lammle. Bride and groom were extolled by onlookers – he is rich, she is a woman of property, both of excellent reputation. But both Mr. & Mrs. Lammle were in for a shock on their wedding day. For while Mr. Lammle had believed the rumors circulating about his bride and though Mrs. Lammle had believed the rumors circulating about her groom, they soon discovered that they had both been deceived and married nameless paupers. They were deceived by appearances.
And it is this folly that our proverb identifies today: beware judging solely by appearances. There are those who pretend to be rich but yet who have nothing. They drive around in fancy cars, they have a large house, they wear expensive clothes – but it is all a façade. Everything is on loan and the payments are behind and soon it’s all going to collapse. Meanwhile, there are others who live simply and yet possess great wealth. They drive modest cars, they watch their budget, they shop at T.J. Maxx, but they’ve invested well and will retire quite comfortably.
Solomon’s observation reminds us to beware lest we judge merely by the seeing of our eyes. Often our eyes deceive us. This is certainly the case with riches – as the Lammle’s tragic marriage illustrates; but it is also the case in other areas. There are those couples who appear to have it all together, but behind closed doors their marriage is a disaster. There are those teens who appear obedient and respectful, but who give their parents grief when no one is watching. There are those who talk much about God and God’s work in their lives, but who haven’t cracked open their Bibles for years.
On the other hand, there are those couples who shun glory but who enjoy meaningful companionship. There are those teens who are rambunctious but who would do anything to bring honor to their parents’ name. There are those who have little of this world’s wealth but who are rich in things pertaining to God.
Thus we must be careful lest we judge by appearances; lest we, as the adage goes, judge a book by its cover. Often there is more to a situation or a person than first meets the eye. So Isaiah describes the character of our Lord Jesus Christ:
3His delight is in the fear of the Lord, And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, Nor decide by the hearing of His ears; 4But with righteousness He shall judge the poor, And decide with equity for the meek of the earth… (Is 11:3-4a)
So what of you? Do you rush to judgment about others? Are you hasty in your assessments of others? Do you jump on the latest social media craze? Join the latest lynch mob? Condemn others just because they are wearing a different jersey than your own or belong to a different political party? Or do you endeavor to look deeper than the surface to see what is below, what is truly the case? To weigh carefully before you judge?
Reminded that we often judge by appearances rather than judging with righteous judgment, let us confess our folly to the Lord. And as we confess, let us kneel as we are able.