How often hasn’t an X-Ray or a CAT scan found something seriously wrong in a person who outwardly looked good and even felt good? We all probably know at least one person who was shocked to learn, after undergoing a routine procedure, that they had a serious problem. After the shock, comes thankfulness, especially in those situations where the problem was caught in its early stages and could be addressed.
Just as X-rays see things we can’t see, so also the Lord.
For the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”
1 Samuel 16:7
This is sobering especially when we see how Jesus pointed to the heart as the source of all defilement in Mark 7.
Here’s the setting for Jesus’ statement. The Pharisees had criticized Jesus’ disciples for eating with ceremonially unclean hands. Jesus responded by not only rebuking them for laying aside God’s commands for human traditions; he went on to explain how foolish it is to think that defilement comes from outside of us.
There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man
A few verses later he expanded on it:
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
As Jesus emphasizes, the important thing to God is what lies within us – he doesn’t look at the outward appearance; instead he looks at our hearts.
This is very sobering – because it doesn’t take much reflection to realize that my heart’s X-ray doesn’t look good. (Often when pointing our sin, it is good to first start with yourself.) Even though I can often refrain from acting on them, evil thoughts still arise within me. Before I even know it, I have angry thoughts about the driver ahead of me. Or an unclean thought about the woman who walked by. Or some unsavory pride as someone compliments me. Or an unhealthy fixation on money as I view my bank statement. It doesn’t take much self-evaluation to realize how embarrassing it would be if a video of my last day’s thoughts would be broadcast for all to see. It would not be a pretty picture.
What is even more distressing is that, no matter how hard I try, I can’t completely quash those evil thoughts. In fact, some days I wonder if I can even make a dent in them. And if I do succeed one day suppressing one type of them, they seem to come back with a vengeance the next day. For example, I wake up determined to work hard on having loving thoughts about everyone including any driver ahead of me. I might even do a pretty good job for a day. Then something happens the next day, and it all flies out the window. When I examine my heart, I identify with St. Paul who said:
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
Because my heart is so riddled with evil thoughts, because no matter how hard I try I can’t rid myself of those evil thoughts, I shudder at the thought of directing the Lord’s attention to anything I do as a reason for him to accept me. Because, as he traces everything I do or say back to my heart, there’s a whole lot there he isn’t going to be pleased with.
This is why I want him to only look at what Jesus did for me. When he looks there, he will be well-pleased – for there he sees perfection. I don’t even want him to look at both Jesus and me – for the only thing I can add to Jesus’ perfection is my imperfections.
Why is Heavenly Father going to welcome me with open arms into his presence for all eternity? Only, solely, totally, completely because of what Jesus has done for me. He gets all the credit – all the praise – all the glory.