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The Pulpit: What lies beneath the surface is what really matters

One night, as we were winding down, I watched some videos on social experiments. Although they were all a little different, the main theme was the same. They took a well-dressed man and another that looked like a homeless man; they both used crutches and would fall in front of people. I bet you can guess which of the two men were helped to his feet. Yes, not the homeless man. That brought tears to my eyes. I began to think about what I would do if I were placed in that situation. I hope I would do the right thing and assist both men back to their feet. The sad thing is we are placed in that situation everyday. Okay maybe not with the physical falling of someone in front of us, but there is more to falling than just physical. Have you ever passed a homeless person walking down the highway? I know what you’re thinking; you don’t know if that person might hurt you if you pick them up. True, but have you ever passed a broken down car and then come upon its driver down the road and picked them up? Yes, I have done the same thing. The Apostle James says something about that type of action. If you look with favor on the man wearing the fine clothes and say, "Sit here in a good place," and yet you say to the poor man, "Stand over there," or, "Sit here on the floor by my footstool, haven’t you discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:3-4 HCSB.

Don’t you see how when we treat people based upon outward appearance that we are doing exactly what the Pharisees did in the time of Jesus. Jesus called those types of people hypocrites because they professed to love God with their mouths but their actions never showed the same fruit. It is not just about picking somebody up off the ground or giving somebody a ride. The real issue is not making snap judgments based upon what we see on the outside. Mankind has been plagued with this problem since before any of you that read this were ever born. In the Bible we find that when God was picking King David, even the Prophet thought he was an unlikely candidate. Jesus himself was not one that people would have picked to be the Messiah. After all, he was poor and from a family of no importance to society. Jesus would draw people to him based upon what he was doing, not based upon how he looked. I find another situation to be true a lot of times. We generally only want to witness to a certain kind of person. We may make a snap judgment based upon what they look like or how we think they will respond. Thereby deciding for them if they are really worthy to hear the Gospel of Christ.

Our churches today do the same thing as we go out visiting and inviting people to worship with us. Many churches have the “us four and no more” mentality. If they don’t look like us, act like us or come from the same social circle, they need to find somewhere else to worship. Let me share an illustration I have used a number of times while preaching: One Sunday morning an old cowboy put on his best pair of jeans and shirt and decided today was the day to go to church. So off he headed and marched right in as proud as he could be. The service had already begun and the preacher saw the guy walk in. The service was a good one and the cowboy really enjoyed himself. The end came and it was time to go home and the preacher was in the back shaking hands. The cowboy got to him and the preacher was friendly, he stepped to the side with the cowboy and said he was glad that he was there, but asked him to go home and pray and ask God what he should wear when coming to that church again. So the week passed and the cowboy got dressed and headed off to church again. Same jeans and shirt. The preacher saw him come in and began to get furious. The sermon was preached, songs were sung and the service concluded. The preacher caught the cowboy and began to unload on him. The preacher asked the man if he had done as he was asked and prayed to God to find out what he was suppose to wear to that church. The cowboy replied, God said He didn’t know, He hadn’t ever been here.

You see, we have churches today that are just going through the motions of a church but really don’t even let God come in. The church was established to be a hospital for the hurting not a country club for the self-righteous. I read a quote, not sure who it comes from, but here it is anyway: A man’s character can be told by how he treats somebody he can gain nothing from. How true that statement really is. But if you are a follower of Christ, you understand that it is not the Earthly stuff you are after. My challenge to you today is to look past outward appearances and do the right thing when it comes to helping people.

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