Is your heart an attractive gift to God?
People spend a lot of time wrapping gifts. We want them to look perfect. We meticulously measure the amount of wrapping paper needed, cut slowly and painstakingly tape each package so that it is just right. We want the outside to look amazing, no matter what is inside the package.
Nothing about Jesus looked like royalty, at least not judging by the way He was wrapped. From the surface, He looked like the product of a dysfunctional relationship who poorly planned their pregnancy and delivery. After all, who gives birth in a manger?
“Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them” (Luke 2:4-7 NIV).
Have you ever given your friend the nicest gift, but sloppily wrapped it with mismatched paper and duct tape and observed their reaction?
In theory, we know the size, shape and elegant wrapping of a gift do not determine the worth of what’s found within. A priceless diamond does not lose its value just because it is placed in a brown paper bag, but we spend a lot of time and money on the outside anyway.
Nothing says “wasted time” like a big pile of shredded wrapping paper on the floor after a rigorous Christmas morning. All that precious time spent making the gift look beautiful amounted to nothing more than filler for the recycling bin to most recipients.
We can approach our lives in a similar way, fashioning a beautiful, flawless, glistening exterior for all to see while paying little attention to what’s inside. We present ourselves as a pleasing package, but pleasing to who?
When the prophet, Samuel visited Jesse the Bethlehemite in search for Israel’s first king, he found himself looking at how the gift was wrapped. He saw Eliab, who appeared tall, strong and confident. What a beautifully wrapped gift, Samuel may have thought, yet in an instant, God dispelled such a silly idea that the outside would have any bearing whatsoever on what was found inside.
God’s focus is on the heart.
“But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart’” (1 Samuel 16:7 ESV).
This Scripture will invoke emotion in you. You will feel either affirmed, judgmental or insecure.
- You will feel affirmed if you know you have more potential inside of you than others have noticed. You will feel like David, just waiting to be discovered. While attractive on the outside, you spend even more time on your inside, on the content of your character.
- You can feel judgmental if you compare yourself to Samuel. “How could God’s prophet pick so poorly? What a terrible leader.” We judge Samuel for looking at the outside, but we do it all the time. When we play the comparison game, we feel either superior or inferior. For instance, we tend to put on a few extra pounds over the holiday season. If you compare yourself to someone thinner than you, it may cause you to feel inferior. If you compare yourself to someone heavier than you, it may cause you to feel superior.
- You may feel insecure if you don’t love who you are, or you regret things you’ve done. You may not want people to look past your external appearance because you are not confident that they’ll like what they see on the inside. You may even spend extra time or money on expensive clothes and cultivate a perfect appearance to mask the inadequacies you feel within.
We tend to focus on the external. We use what we see to confirm biases and evaluate our own self-worth. From Samuel’s perspective, God’s anointed should look, walk and talk a certain way.
From our perspective, people should behave in a certain way, worship a certain way and pray a certain way. We give little latitude to their upbringing or where they are on their spiritual journey. We look; we judge and we then seek out information to confirm our opinions.
Examine the contents.
Life can be hectic, especially during the holidays, so take some time, get in His presence and ask the Holy Spirit to examine the contents of your spiritual package. Have you spent more time on what others see than you have on what God sees? Is your heart attractive to Him? Are you living a life worthy of His presence?
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself during this holiday season to evaluate the contents of your life, the present you give to Jesus.
- If I saw someone imitate my life, would I assume they had a relationship with Jesus?
- Am I hiding my weaknesses by focusing on my external appearance instead of asking Jesus to search my heart and make the unclean things clean?
- Do I believe Jesus really loves me despite what I’ve done?
Only you and Jesus know what’s underneath the wrapping paper.
Jesus had some strong words for the religious leaders of His day who focused excessively on the outside appearance.
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness” (Matthew 23:27-28 NIV).
Nicely wrapped, beautiful, but disappointing, full of dead people’s bones.
Let your prayer this year, as you journey toward Jesus, be to search for the authentic. Look for what’s inside, not outside. Even if you were born in a stable, you can change the world.
Read the next blog in this special Christmas series, A Journey to Christmas – an invitation to experience your own Christmas story.