All our lives we have all heard the old idioms of “don’t judge a book by its cover” or “all that glitters is not gold” or “beauty is only skin deep” and dozens of other similar idioms telling us “things are not as they appear.”

We are reminded of the anecdote about two traveling angels who stopped to spend the night in the home of a wealthy family. The family was rude and refused to let the angels stay in the mansion’s guest room. Instead the angels were given a small space in the cold basement.

As they made their bed on the hard floor, the older angel saw a hole in the wall and repaired it. When the younger angel asked why, the older angel replied, “Things aren’t always what they seem.”

The next night the pair came to rest at the house of a very poor, but very hospitable farmer and his wife. After sharing what little food they had the couple let the angels sleep in their bed where they could have a good night’s rest.

When the sun came up the next morning the angels found the farmer and his wife in tears. Their only cow, whose milk had been their sole income, lay dead in the field.

The younger angel was infuriated and asked the older angel: “How could you have let this happen? The first man had everything, yet you helped him”, she accused. “The second family had little but was willing to share everything, and you let the cow die.”

“Things aren’t always what they seem,” the older angel replied. “When we stayed in the basement of the mansion, I noticed there was gold stored in that hole in the wall. Since the owner was so obsessed with greed and unwilling to share his good fortune, I sealed the wall so he wouldn’t find it.”

“Then last night as we slept in the farmer’s bed, the angel of death came for his wife. I gave him the cow instead. Things aren’t always what they seem.”

Jesus teaches us to “Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly” (John 7:24). Yet for the majority of us, we are usually quick to judge by appearance only. Yes, even Christians are guilty of jumping to conclusions before getting all of the facts. It is our inherited carnal nature. Luckily, God is quick to forgive us if we ask him.

Heavenly father, thank you for being so full of grace and forgiveness to know we have a hard time with judging people and talking about things which may not appear as they seem. Give us the mindset to let you do all the judging and remove all loneliness, jealousy and envy from our hearts so we can love our neighbor without judging and better serve you. So when we get down and out, guide our thoughts to your love and forgiveness to spur us to treat others as you do.