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  • Writer's picturePastor Jason Murphy

Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

Updated: Mar 29, 2020

“Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Have you heard that saying before? Sure, you have. It is used all the time. When was the last time you stopped to think about the reason behind the saying? The reason is that the cover might not accurately portray the content. The cover doesn’t really matter. The content is what matters. 

People are like books. In fact, we are actually called epistles, or letters, by the Apostle Paul. In 2 Corinthians 3:2-3, Paul writes, “You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all. 3 And you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.” You see, we are “living letters”. 

Since humans are “living letters”, we must acknowledge that our covers are not always an accurate portrayal of our contents. Some people look like Christians, but can’t live it. Others might not look so good on the outside, but their heart is right and pure before God. So, never judge a book, or a “living letter”, by its cover.

I, for one, am glad that God judges and chooses based on content instead of the cover. I mean think about it, there are some heroes of the faith that we would not have chosen based on their cover, but God chose them because He could read the contents of their heart. Let’s consider a few examples. 

The first to be examined is Jacob. You can read about him in Genesis thirty-two. Jacob was so named because he was a “trickster” or “deceiver”. He wrestles with God during an all-night prayer meeting. In the process, God changes his name from Jacob to Israel. Israel means “prince with God”. He is the patriarch of the twelve tribes of Israel. He was far from perfect but chose him.

How about Rahab? You can read about her in Joshua chapter two. She was a Canaanite and a prostitute of Jericho. However, she showed kindness to the spies of Israel by hiding them from their enemy when they were discovered to be spying out the land. She further demonstrated her faith in the God of Israel by tying a red cord on her window so that when the Israelites attacked, they would spare her and whoever was in her house. This act demonstrated that she believed that God would give Israel the victory. She was even an evangelist of sorts as she told her family to stay in her house and they would be spared. She eventually produced a child that was in the lineage of Jesus. 

Then, there is Gideon. You can read about him in Judges chapters six through eight. Israel is oppressed by the Midianites. The Angel of the Lord, which was a reference to the pre-incarnate Jesus Christ, appeared to Gideon and commissioned him to lead Israel to freedom. Most people would not have chosen Gideon. In fact, Gideon would not have chosen himself. Listen to Gideon describe himself. He stated that his clan is considered the least of the tribe of Manasseh, and on top of that, he is considered the least of his father’s house. He was hiding while threshing wheat in a wine press. I don’t know if you realize this or not, but typically you do not thresh wheat in a wine press. However, Gideon was doing so because he was hiding from the Midianites. Even though he was considered the least, and extremely fearful and timid, Jesus considered him a mighty man of valor. Why? Because He did not judge Gideon on his cover, but rather the content of his heart. He knew that Gideon would tear down the false altars, dwindle his army down to 300 men, sneak into the enemy’s camp, and follow God’s battle plan to go to battle with nothing but torches, clay pitchers, and a shout so that God would get all the glory. 


Since humans are “living letters”, we must acknowledge that our covers are not always an accurate portrayal of our contents.


Lastly, there is David. You can read about David in 1 Samuel chapter sixteen through 1 Kings chapter two. The short version is that due to Saul’s grievous sins, God determined to tear the kingdom from him and find another leader. God tells the prophet Samuel to go down to Jesse’s house located in Bethlehem, and there God would show him who the next king would be. Samuel obeys. Jesse brings seven of his sons before the prophet. However, God does not indicate that any of them would be the next king. Samuel asked if there was another son. Jesse said there was one son left, but he was out in the field tending the sheep. Samuel said he wanted to meet him. When David comes into the room, God identified David as the one whom He had chosen, and that the prophet should rise and anoint him to be the next king of Israel. Everyone was stunned. 

You probably would not have chosen David either. He was the youngest. He was considered so insignificant that he was not even invited to the party for the purpose of finding out who the next king of Israel would be. He was so little that everyone laughed at him when he offered to fight Goliath. David lusted after Bathsheba. He eventually invited her to his house and had an affair with her. When she became pregnant, he had her husband deliberately killed in battle. Yet, this is the man that God chose. Why? Because God does not judge a book by its cover. Instead, He looks at the content of the heart. 

1 Samuel 16:7 – “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.”

God sees your potential in your present state. He does not judge a book by its cover. Instead, He looks at the content of the heart. So, if God has chosen you for a task, then your heart is right for the job no matter what the outward circumstances might show. The cover does not matter as nearly as much as the content of the heart. 


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