A homeless man one day went to a 10,000-member church. He walked around the church for 30 minutes while it was filling up with people for service. In that time, only three people out of the 7-10,000 people stopped to say hello to him.
He asked people for change so he could go and buy food … no one in the church gave him any.
He went into the sanctuary to sit down in the front of the church and he was asked by the ushers if he would please sit in the back.
He kindly greeted people only to be greeted back with stares and dirty looks, with people looking down on him judging him.
As he sat in the back of the church, he listened to the church announcements and such, much like we do each Sunday. When all that was said and done, the elders went up and were excited to introduce the new pastor of the church to the congregation.
“We would like to introduce to you Pastor Jeremiah Steepek.” The congregation looked around clapping with joy and anticipation.
The homeless man sitting in the back of the church stood up and started walking down the aisle. The clapping slowly stopped and all eyes were on him.
He walked up to the altar, took the microphone from the elders, and paused for a moment before he recited Matthew 25 when Jesus says:
“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
“The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (25:34-40).
After he recited this, the head pastor looked towards the congregation and told them all that he had experienced that morning. Many people began to cry and many heads were bowed in shame.
He then said, “Today I see a gathering of people, not a church of Jesus Christ. The world has enough people, but not enough disciples. When will you decide to become disciples?” He then dismissed the service until next week.
In 1 Samuel 16, when the servant of God Samuel goes to Bethlehem, to the house of Jesse to anoint one of his sons to be king of Israel, the first son he saw was Eliab. Eliab was the oldest of Jesse’s sons and when Samuel saw him he thought, “Surely the LORD’s anointed stands here before the LORD” (1 Sam. 16:7). Samuel looked on the outside and saw a handsome, strong young man and thought “He’s the one!” But instead the LORD said, “Do not consider his appearance or height for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (16:7).
You know the phrase which fits this right? “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” It’s a metaphorical phrase that means one shouldn’t prejudge the worth or the value of something by its outward appearance alone. This is what the 10,000-member congregation did with Pastor Jeremiah in September of 2013. This is what Samuel did when he saw Jesse’s oldest son. This is what you and I tend to do. This is what society does. If something is appealing, if it is sexy, if it is outwardly of great value … then it has to be the best right? Too often, perhaps more than people are willing to realize, we judge others only by what we see. We judge by facial appearance, age, skin color, and clothing. “Man looks at the outward appearance … but the LORD looks at the heart.”
Jesse had seven sons pass by Samuel. Each time one passed by, even though Samuel may have thought that son was fit to be king, the LORD said no. When it seemed like no one was left and yet one of Jesse’s sons was to be anointed as king, Samuel asked, “Are all these the sons you have?” (16:11). Jesse says no, “there is still the youngest, but he is tending the sheep.”
This youngest son is summoned and brought before Samuel. When brought in, Samuel saw a handsome young man, with honest and alert eyes, the picture of health. This boy’s youthful good looks, however, did not suggest one strong enough to rule this nation. But what Samuel saw versus what God saw were two totally different things. Samuel saw a good looking little boy. God saw David’s humility, his trusting heart and that is exactly what God was looking for. God looked beyond the outward appearance of David and saw his heart. When David walked up to Samuel, God said, “Rise and anoint him; he is the one” (16:12).
How does this all tie in with what we are observing this morning? How does all this tie in with Sanctity of Life Sunday. Man’s view, the world’s view of things is not the same as God’s view.
After being sick for several weeks, a young teenage girl comes home to reveal to her mom and dad that she’s pregnant. This pregnancy isn’t part of anyone’s plan. The world looks past the beating heart, the fingers and toes and sees an inconvenience. What does the world do when something is inconvenient? They get rid of it. They say that it isn’t life, it’s just a blob of cells.
A young couple have been married for a couple of years and they decide they want to have a baby. The big day comes when they reveal to their parents that they are going to become grandparents. Everything is great, that is until they realize that their unborn child isn’t going to be like all the other babies. Their child has a defect. Their child has a heart defect, or down syndrome or spina bifida. This isn’t what they signed up for. They want a child that is going to be strong and healthy and perfect.
An elderly woman lies in a bed at a nursing home. She’s on a feeding tube because she can’t swallow anymore. She is on oxygen because it is hard for her fragile lungs to keep up. She has dementia and can’t even remember the names of her own kids. Even though she is someone’s mom and grandma, you would never know it because no one comes to visit.
To the world … these very generic but very real scenarios … the world view sees a menace, a burden, an inconvenience. The world’s view sees a problem which can be fixed. A problem which can be fixed through things like abortion, physician assisted suicide or euthanasia.
God’s view though is totally different. “Man looks at the outward appearance … but the LORD looks at the heart.” Remember, God doesn’t others like we do. He doesn’t decide the value of someone based on their facial appearance, their age, their skin color, clothing, or political affiliation. Your worth, the worth of an unborn child, the worth of someone with a terminal disease, the worth of someone lying in a nursing home bed dependent on others rests solely in Jesus. As the author and giver of life, God is most delighted when He sees in us, in any of his dearly loved children, a heart of faith, a heart which admits its sin and seeks out God’s forgiveness. No matter what man may think, what the world views about a person … to God … they are precious.
As children of God, these who man, who the world views as a burden, as an inconvenience … not only are they highly valued by God … but they are our brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus said, “Whatever you did for the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matt. 25:40). May our view of others, be at all times the same as God’s view as we serve each other and the most vulnerable of our brothers and sisters in Christ. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.