“Yes,” Samuel replied. “I have come to sacrifice to the Lord. Purify yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then Samuel performed the purification rite for Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice, too. When they arrived, Samuel took one look at Eliab and thought, “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” -1 Samuel 16:5-7

There is a line by Atticus Finch in the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, that says, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”  While we know that intuitively to be true, that does not stop us from jumping the gun, judging the book by the cover, or jumping to conclusions without all the facts. That is what Coach White did when he first arrived in McFarland, California. Most people would have probably related this way. It is the power of the first impression. We are all human, and everyday we make decisions based on nothing else but by what we can see.

John 7:24 says, “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” Some of the books with the worst covers have been the best book to read. Coach White finds that out over time.  Inner beauty. What is on the inside is what counts. 

In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel is given an assignment: “Now the Lord said to Samuel, “You have mourned long enough for Saul. I have rejected him as king of Israel, so fill your flask with olive oil and go to Bethlehem. Find a man named Jesse who lives there, for I have selected one of his sons to be my king.”

So Samuel did as the Lord instructed. When Samuel was to select the next king of Israel from the sons of Jesse, he made his judgment based on first impressions. First in the line, was Eliab, the eldest son of the family. He was probably handsome and his appearance suitable for a king, for when Samuel saw him, he thought that he was the one; “Surely this is the Lord’s anointed!” (1 Samuel 16:6) However, when he presented him to the Lord he got a negative reply. As the passage tells us, the Lord, looked at the heart and refused him. Many times it happens to us too. We like something, it looks or sounds good to us and thus we believe this is right for us. 

However, we should never make a decision based on the outer appearance. Had Samuel done this, he would have anointed the wrong man. Instead, we should always consult the One that sees where our senses cannot see: at the heart. Returning to Samuel, after God’s negative reply for Eliab he moved ahead to the next in the “queue”. God’s chosen was not any of the older sons. The Spirit told Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature” (1 Sam. 16:7). God chose David, the youngest, who looked least like a king.

Coach White looked past the first impressions and into the hearts. We can too. God can help us view people through His eyes, for “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Discussion Questions:

  1. Place yourself in the scene where Coach White has negative first impressions? Would you have reacted differently? How?
  2. Why is it so difficult to move past first impressions? How do you think Coach White moved past his first impressions?
  3. Why is it so easy to judge other people? Have you been judged by someone? How did it make you feel to be judged by that person?
  4. Can judging others lead to being a hypocrite? Why is being hypocritical so harmful to the Christian faith?
  5. What positive steps can we take this week to look past first impressions?