Yesterday was Veterans Day and we were at the Grand Canyon National Park. We live about 370 miles from the canyon and had made an overnight trip there to be able to spend a day with one of our older daughters and her children.
After breakfast I was waiting outside the lodge while our grandchildren and our youngest daughter played together. I was wearing a sweatshirt bearing the name of the ship I served on while in the US Navy, and a hat from an outfitter in the boundary waters of Minnesota and Canada. And that was when someone came up to me asking me to show him on a map how to get from the lodge to the canyon. He said that he thought I worked there.
In my head I thought, "What is it about my appearance that suggests I work at the Grand Canyon? Navy sweatshirt? Outfitter hat? Not even an employee nametag. Anything?" I kept all of that inside, glanced at the map, which I didn't quite understand myself, gestured with my hand and said, "The canyon is that way. You can’t miss it."
And that got me to thinking about appearances and how we take care to present ourselves publicly in a particular way, a way that may or may not be an accurate representation of who we really are. I had made a conscious choice to wear my Navy sweatshirt on Veterans Day, in part to obtain any benefits that might have been available to veterans at the canyon or on the way home. I did wind up having some conversations with other vets I met at the canyon, but that was all that came as a result of my clothing choice.
But of infinite more importance than how I appear on the outside is my inside appearance, or the condition of my heart. In calling out the Pharisees for their diligence in outward appearances and neglect of the state of their heart, Jesus says this in Matthew 23:25-26:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean."
Jesus is telling the Pharisees that they need to pay attention to what is going inside of them first, and then the outside will take care of itself. He may have been speaking to the Pharisees, but when I read those words I know that He is also talking to me.
Just before that section of Matthew, when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment was, He replied:
"And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
There is a way that I really want to present myself to the world, and that is as a servant of Jesus, my Savior and Lord. I could do that in a begrudging way, because I felt that I have to, even though I may not want to.
Or…I could first love the Lord my God, with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind. Loving God first is what will truly let my actions show His beauty and goodness to the world. And it is His appearance, not mine, that is of infinite value.
Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.