John 7:24 – Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.

One Sunday morning, an old cowboy entered a church just before services were to begin. Although the old man and his clothes were spotlessly clean, he wore jeans, a denim shirt, and boots that were very worn and ragged. In his hand, he carried a worn out old hat and an equally worn out old Bible.

The church he entered was a very upscale and in an exclusive part of the city. It was the largest and most beautiful church building the old cowboy had ever seen. It had high cathedral ceilings, ornate statues, beautiful murals, stained glass windows, plush carpet, and velvet-like cushioned pews. The building must have cost many millions of dollars to build and maintain.

The congregation was all dressed in the finest and most expensive suits, dresses, shoes, and jewelry the old cowboy had ever seen. As the poorly dressed cowboy took a seat, the others moved away from him. No one greeted him. No one welcomed him. No one offered a handshake. No one spoke to him. They were all appalled at his appearance and did not attempt to hide the fact. There were many glances in his direction as the others frowned and commented among themselves about his shabby attire. A few chuckles and giggles came from some of the younger members.

The preacher gave a long sermon and a stern lecture on how much money the church needed to do God’s work. When the offering plate was passed thousands of dollars came pouring forth. As soon as the service was over the congregation hurried out. Once again no one spoke or even nodded to the stranger in the ragged clothes and boots. As the old cowboy was leaving the church the preacher approached him. Instead of welcoming him, the preacher asked the cowboy to do him a favor. “Before you come back in here again, have a talk with God and ask him what He thinks would be appropriate attire for worshiping in this church.” The old cowboy assured the preacher he would do that and left.

The very next Sunday morning the old cowboy showed back up for the service wearing the same ragged jeans, shirt, boots, and hat. Once again, the congregation was appalled at his appearance. Again, he was completely shunned and ignored. The preacher noticed the man still wearing his ragged clothes and boots, and instead of beginning his sermon, stepped down from the pulpit and walked over to where the man sat alone.

“I thought I asked you to speak to God before you came back to our church.” “I did,” replied the old cowboy. “If you spoke to God, what did he tell you the proper attire should be for worshiping in here?” asked the preacher. “Well sir, God told me that He wouldn’t have the slightest idea what was appropriate attire for worshiping in your church.” He said He’s never been in here. That church family sounds rather “dysfunctional.” They are obviously more concerned about what is seen on the outside rather than what is unseen on the inside.

“We are not again commending ourselves to you but are giving you an occasion to be proud of us, so that you will have an answer for those who take pride in appearance and not in heart” (2 Corinthians  5:12). Those who judge after appearance are judging from “pride” and not the Spirit of the Lord. The story above illustrates how both individuals and church bodies can be filled with pride and arrogance, rather than the love of God.

Father, give me eyes to see as You do. Create in me righteous judgment as the Lord Jesus instructs all His disciples to have.