God taught me a major lesson last week about how easily we judge things and people by their outside appearances. I had just climbed off a plane in Birmingham, England and was waiting, along with a 100 other people, for my luggage to appear on the carousel belt. I was on the opposite side of the carousel from where the luggage first appeared. The 4th item of luggage to appear was a big black suitcase that was ripped at the sides and held together by ugly brown sticky masking tape. As I watched its progress along the carousel the following thoughts were going through my mind:
“I wonder how someone who can’t even afford a decent suitcase can afford to fly?”“I would be so embarrassed to acknowledge that as my suitcase!”
“I wonder how the person who owns that suitcase is dressed?”
As it drew closer to me I saw that it had exactly the same stickers that I had on my suitcase and then I saw my name on the identity tag and purely out of instinct I reached out and lifted it off the carousel belt. To compound my embarrassment I didn’t even have a trolley so I couldn’t put the suitcase on a trolley and cover it with my hand luggage! I had to pull this broken, wonky suitcase that was held together by ugly brown tape all the way through the airport.
In Matthew there are two very challenging verses “Do not judge or you too will be judged. For in the same way as you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”1John 7:24 says “Stop judging by outside appearances…”2
My suitcase was filled with beautifully wrapped presents, decent clothes and chocolates.
Judging by the appearance of my suitcase you would have thought it was filled with rags.
Often things happen that are beyond our control – I had put a big, black suitcase in good condition onto the airplane in South Africa and had received a damaged and torn suitcase, covered in tape in England. Somewhere in transit the suitcase was badly damaged and yet the contents were unharmed and, thank God, nothing was stolen.
The friends I was visiting have a son whose body is covered in tattoos and he has various piercings on his face and body. Judging by his appearance you would think he was a delinquent who took drugs and was on the dole because he had never completed his education. In fact the truth is that he has never taken drugs, has a steady job and earns a good income and is one of the kindest, politest and honest people that I have ever met. I love him dearly and yet if I didn’t know him and saw him walking towards me on the street I would cross over to the other side…………..! Thanks Matt for allowing me to use you as a good example of the old adage ‘Don’t judge a book by its cover’.
1 Matthew 7:1 & 2, NIV Bible
2 NIV Bible