Do ye look on things after the outward appearance?
— 2 Corinthians 10:7
Denise and I decided to attend an art auction in Moscow simply because we wanted to do something fun and different. We were not going to purchase art, but we thought it might be fun to observe how an event like an art auction would be conducted. We figured it would be a high-class event, so we dressed accordingly. We got into the car, headed across town, and arrived in the location where the auction was to be conducted. We arrived a little early, so we walked through the gallery — flabbergasted at the asking prices of the art that was to be auctioned that evening.
When it was time for the auction to begin, we made our way to our seats. Before everything started, I looked around to see what kind of people were there to participate that evening. By the way most people were dressed, I never would have imagined they had any money. Denise and I were the best-dressed people in the place, and we were there only as observers! From all outward appearances, we were the ones who looked affluent, and the people who had big money to spend looked like they had dropped by the auction on the way to a picnic!
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When the auction started, it wasn’t long until the auctioneer starting pounding the podium with his gavel. “SOLD!” he said, over and over again. The man sitting in front of me wore sneakers, jeans, and a wrinkled shirt, and he held in his hand a list of paintings he intended to “war” over and take home that night. I could hardly believe my eyes and ears as that young man lifted his auction card again and again to bid for pieces of art. Within moments, he had spent a fortune on paintings. But the final shock was when an unshaven and disheveled-looking man across the room from us paid nearly $1,000,000 for two abstract paintings that were so ugly, I wouldn’t have hung them in our garage!
When the event was over, I meandered through the small crowd so I could get a closer look at the people who had paid these whopping prices for art that evening. None of them looked like he or she had any money. Most of them looked like they needed fashion assistance! From all outward appearances, I wouldn’t have thought any of them had a dime to spare.
Denise and I went to the car to head home. When we got into the car and looked at each other, we were speechless at first. We just didn’t know what to say about the enormous sums of money people spent more quickly than we could blink — or about the unimpressive way these enormously rich people were dressed that evening. One lesson we clearly learned that evening: Looks can be deceiving!
This experience made me ponder the number of people we encounter in life who are much more powerful internally than they look outwardly. Just consider the apostle Paul! We have no illustrations or photos of what Paul looked like, but from what he wrote about himself in Second Corinthians 10:10, we can surmise that he wasn’t among the best-looking of his day. In fact, Paul actually quoted an opponent who laughed at his physical appearance and voice. Paul told them in essence, “I’ve heard what you’ve said about me. You say, ‘…His bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible.’”
The words “bodily presence” is a translation of the Greek words parousia tou somatos, which may be better translated, “the mere appearance of his body.” Paul’s opponents were not impressed with his physical body! They called it “weak.” The word “weak” that Paul quotes here is the Greek word astheneo, which can mean physically weak, but it can also mean dubious, defective, or questionable in appearance. It could actually be rendered, “the appearance of his body is a little puzzling.”
It appears that they were laughing at Paul’s physical body; yet it was that same physical body that had carried the power of God wherever he went. The external “package” may not have been very impressive to the apostle’s opponents, but it contained the dynamic power of God! So Paul warned them, “You better be careful about judging me by my exterior appearance, because when I come to you the next time, you will find out how much power is contained inside this body!” (to paraphrase Paul’s words in Second Corinthians 10:2,11).
Apparently they were also laughing at Paul’s voice or the way he spoke, because he said, “I hear you saying that my speech is contemptible.” The word “speech” is the word logos, which means words but in this case most likely means his voice or possibly his manner of speech. The word “contemptible” is the Greek word exoutheneo, which means awful, despicable, disgusting, or horrible.
What was it about Paul’s voice or his way of speaking that some people loathed so much? We don’t know, but something in his manner of speech or what his voice sounded like made them say that listening to him was disgusting! Yet it was this voice that first preached the Gospel to them and brought them out of spiritual darkness into spiritual light! We don’t know what Paul sounded like, but regardless of his voice’s tenor, depth, or tone — and regardless of how Paul articulated his message — it had been the voice of this apostle that had been the vehicle to bring the knowledge of God’s power and love to the Corinthians and to people all over the Roman Empire.
There may have been weaknesses in Paul’s physical appearance and vocal abilities, but his interior was mighty and powerful. People could mock all they wanted, but his opponents were never able to match what he accomplished because he was so inwardly filled with divine power and revelation. His opponents may have been more physically attractive, but inwardly they simply couldn’t measure up to what Paul carried within himself.
That night at the art auction, Denise and I outwardly looked like the ones who had money to spend, and the people who actually possessed the necessary resources to purchase that expensive art didn’t look impressive at all. Judging by appearances, we would have missed it altogether. It was an amazing night of learning anew that a person’s outward package may not always tell the truth about what he or she is carrying on the inside.
I want to encourage you not to judge yourself too harshly by your exterior appearance. Do all you can to make yourself look better. But when you’re done with improvements and there’s nothing else you can do, you must remember that your inward man is filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Remember this truth also when you meet others. It is simply a fact that you will meet some people who look very impressive but are inwardly empty. And you will meet others who look very unimpressive but are among those who will change the world! So determine today to judge first yourself and then everyone else you know in life not by external appearances, but by the heart, just as God does. That one decision alone will help you see more clearly in every situation and keep you from evaluating yourself and those around you according to low-level human standards!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Lord, I admit that I’ve judged others by what they look like externally, and today I am asking You to forgive me. I’m sure that others have thought they could figure me out by what they see, yet have missed it many times. Please help me do all I can to improve my outward appearance, but help me remember that I carry Your power and the revelation of Your Word inside me and that there is more to me than meets the eye!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that I am the temple of the Holy Spirit and that the power and the life of God live inside me. I carry within me the authority of the name of Jesus; my voice is an instrument that speaks life; and I am filled with divine treasures. Just as I do not want others to judge me by my external appearance, I will no longer judge others only by what my eyes see. From this moment forward, I will remember and live by the truth that there is more than meets the eye in me and in those whom I meet.
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever met individuals who totally disarmed you because from outward appearances, you didn’t expect them to be as talented or gifted as you found out they were?
- How does it make you feel if you think others are judging you entirely by outward appearances? Do you want to run and hide, do you feel embarrassed, or does it make you want to stand up on the inside and show them who you really are?
- Make a list of Bible characters who seemed weak or whom people deemed insignificant yet God used them mightily as history-changers.