Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

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Today’s Scripture: Matthew 3

Growing up, I remember my mom telling me frequently, “Don’t judge a book by its cover.” I think she was trying to teach me a huge life lesson: don’t judge people on how they look, instead notice their character and actions. Reading about John the Baptist reminded me of this.

If I were to meet John today, my first impression of him would be that he was weird at best, and mentally ill at worst. He wore clothes made of coarse camel hair and a leather belt around his waist. He ate locust (how disgusting!) and wild honey. I imagine him with long wavy hair and a crazy look on his face when he preached. John spoke about the importance of repenting from your sins and turning to God. People came from all over to see him.

I wonder why people were drawn to him. Was it because they wanted to see a freak show or because they heard about his teachings and were intrigued? It amazes me that the Pharisees and Sadducees went to see him. They were well respected and powerful. Unfortunately, they were like a book with a beautiful cover on the outside, but the inside was meaningless drivel. They were arrogant, judgmental, legalistic, selfish, and self-centered. They did not desire to bring the people closer to God. Instead they preferred the glory for themselves.

John was different from them, for he knew his purpose was to point not to himself, but to the one who was greater than he. John had a lot of courage and integrity. He called them out on their behavior.

Matthew 3:7-8
7 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to watch him baptize, he denounced them. “You brood of snakes!” he exclaimed. Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? 8 Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God.

The religious leaders were more focused on getting praise and worship from the people than having them repent their sins and turn to God. John’s focus was on telling the people:

Matthew 3:2
Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near.

He was preparing them to meet Jesus. The religious leaders thought they were special because they were descendants of Abraham, and already saved by God. John was baptizing the people and preaching something totally different.

Matthew 3:11
I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I am not worthy even to be his slave and carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

John was bringing glory to God and preparing the people to meet Jesus. John was a man of great humility who knew his purpose all along.

In John 3:30, John the Baptist says of Jesus, “He must become greater and greater and I must become less and less.”

If I had “judged a book by its cover,” I would have thought that the Pharisees and Sadducees were the true believers and followers of God and that John the Baptist was a nut and I would have been totally WRONG.

How often do you “judge a book by its cover”? How often do you or someone you know work on the cover of your book instead of the content?

What are the differences between John the Baptist and the religious leaders? What are the differences between you and someone you know to be a serious, purpose-driven follower of Christ?

Next Steps:
If you haven’t repented your sins and turned to Jesus as your Savior, please consider doing it now. Read Matthew 3 carefully and compare John the Baptist and the religious leaders. Ponder on who really cared about the people’s salvation.

Jesus, please help me to see people as you do. Please do not let me be fooled by outward appearances, popularity, and wealth. Help me to love all people and not be judgmental. Help me to see people for who they are—your masterpiece. I praise you, because you can use every person to do your will and bring you glory. I beg you to use me, Lord! I am awed by your love and your acceptance of me. Amen.

This post was written by Marsha Raymond. Marsha has been happily married to her husband, Jeff, for 30 years. They have two grown sassy and fearless daughters. She loves spending time with God, her family and friends, reading, riding bicycles, yoga and walking.

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