School is starting, and your teenager is looking for just the right outfit. No matter what she tries on, she hates how she looks. You’ve tried to tell her, “Honey, you look great. Besides, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.”
Her eyes roll like a Las Vegas slot machine. She knows what’s on the inside doesn’t get more Instagram followers. What’s on the inside doesn’t get more points on Snapchat. What’s on the inside doesn’t get a date to the prom. Nobody who matters cares what’s on the inside.
You try to convince her, but you can’t even convince yourself. People care about appearances, even as adults. It’s not just how you look. It’s what you drive, what you wear, where you work. It’s even how religious and spiritual you appear.
Even the Bible says, “People look at the outward appearance” (1 Samuel 16:7).
What’s even worse, social media compounds the pressure to appear effortlessly flawless.
But listen to what Essena O’Neill, a famous Instagram model, learned: “I spent hours watching perfect girls online, wishing I were one of them. Then, when I was ‘one of them,’ I still wasn’t happy, content, or at peace with myself. Social media is not real life.”
What’s on the outside doesn’t really matter. In fact, obsessing about your outward appearance can make you miserable.
We need to figure out what matters to the One who matters. I know we can’t see him. He doesn’t show up at school, and he doesn’t “like” us on Facebook. But think about it. The Lord created you . . . and, by the way, everything else. That makes him the real judge of beauty, significance, and meaning.
So what matters to God?
Something much deeper than outward appearance.
Let me explain . . .
About three thousand years ago, God’s people needed a new king. They already had a king who was tall, dark, and handsome. His name was Saul. He looked like a king and acted like a king. But he was a total chump.
So the Lord sent the prophet Samuel to find a replacement. He was led to Jesse’s house, where he met Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab. He was quite the specimen. Samuel thought, “Wow! Look at this guy! This must be Israel’s next king!”
But the Lord spoke to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The Lord looks at the heart. In other words, what’s on the inside really does matter . . . at least to the Lord. The Lord doesn’t look at your social media following. He doesn’t look at the size of your house. He doesn’t look at your waistline. What really matters to the Lord is your heart.
Why? Because whatever fills up your heart will one day seep through your outward appearance. If your heart is filled with anger, envy, pride, or lust, it will eventually spill out.
But if you let the love of Christ dwell in you richly, if you let yourself see how much he “likes” you, you start to become the person you always wanted to be.
As you go back to school or work, people will look at the outward appearance. Not even God denies that.
But the Lord looks at something deeper.
So above updating your Facebook, filtering your Instagram, or even toning your abs, work on your heart. Because the Lord looks at the heart. And that’s what really matters.
Pastor Ben Sadler has served as a full-time pastor since 2010. He began his ministry serving a Spanish-speaking congregation in Florida. Since March 2014, he has served at Goodview Trinity Church in Minnesota. He is married to Emily, and they have three children. Ben loves to spend time with his family, ride his road bike, read, write, and preach.
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