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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

March 2, 2018

Appearance and Reality

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

Appearance and Reality ("Schein und Sein") isn't just a theme in German literature, used sometimes as well in modern reporting. We also find this theme in the Bible.

When the prophet Samuel was to anoint a replacement for King Saul, he was impressed by Eliab's appearance, David's brother. Eliab was apparently similar to Saul. "Surely the Lord’s anointed is before Him," was Samuel's reaction upon seeing Eliab. But God doesn't judge by appearance, but rather by reality, as evidenced by His reaction to Samuel's thoughts: "Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart" (1 Samuel 16:6-7).

During Jesus' day people could donate at the temple in Jerusalem. And what they donated was apparently evident, to some extent. The rich put a lot into the treasury – big donations! But Jesus watched as a widow put in just two "mites". A "mite" (Greek: lepta) was the coin with the least value in circulation in Judea, estimated to have been worth about ten minutes work for a day laborer. By appearances the widow had not donated very much, especially in comparison to the rich. But Jesus said: "Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God, but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had" (Luke 21:3-4)

And then there were the scribes and Pharisees, whose attitude Jesus warns us about. "Beware of the scribes, who desire to go around in long robes, love greetings in the marketplaces" (Mark 12:38). Jesus also said: "All their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments" (Matthew 23:5). They gave the appearance of being pious, deeply religious. But just as was the case some 3000 years earlier with Eliab, God was looking at the heart, and it showed something different than the appearance: "You also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness" (Matthew 23:28).

Jesus warned His disciples concerning such hypocrisy: "Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them" (Matthew 6:1). It should not be the case that during the week we are gruff with our spouse and children, scheme to get the better of others, etc., and then on the Sabbath we come to services with our "Sabbath smile". Our appearance at services should not be a whitewash of our behavior during the week. Instead, it should reflect what we truly are.

There shouldn't be any difference between appearance and reality when it comes to our relationship to God and neighbor, because God looks on the heart.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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