Ever watch a kid take a shiny new toy out of a box, toss it aside and then proceed to play with the box? We laugh hysterically and then try to convince the kidlet to play with the toy instead. Why? Because we know that the toy really is so much better than the box—especially if we’ve spent precious time and hard-earned money to make that toy happen. So why can’t the kid simply see that the toy is much more valuable than a lump of cardboard that eventually rips, tears, and wears out?
Why can’t we see that?
The Hard Truth
We “play with the box” all the time. We would never admit it but we often don’t see what’s on the inside of a person—their heart—but rather we focus on the shiny box that the person comes in. For example, who would make the better pastor? The slick, well-educated, well-dressed guy who knows all the big vocab words and can preach in fluent Greek? Or the unassuming guy who’s never been to Bible college, prefers Levis to Ralph Lauren, and occasionally even splits an infinitive or two while preaching? It could be either one because here’s the issue—it’s the heart, not the packaging, that matters.
Disclaimer: Now I am not, not, NOT saying that the well-dressed, put-together person doesn’t have a heart of gold or that he average, not-outwardly-sparkly person automatically has a heart like David. The fact is, God has nothing against nice packaging; David was a pretty good-looking guy if I’m reading the right translation. What I am saying is that the heart is the crux of the matter, and the “box” doesn’t always tell the whole story—one way or the other.
Take Einstein, for example. We’ve all seen pics of him. So who would think, at first glance, that the guy with the wild, unkempt hair, rumpled clothes, and messy office would turn out to be one of the most brilliant minds in all of human history? (And no, despite what Ancient Aliens’ scientists say, Einstein was not an extraterrestrial from another planet.)
But go back even further. When Einstein was just a kid in grammar school, the package wasn’t looking so good then, either. In school, his teachers didn’t think he’d ever amount to anything other than a failure. He couldn’t do simple math nor could he even make change from a dollar bill. But it turns out that what was “in the box” was so much more intelligent than the average humanoid that Einstein couldn’t comprehend our infant math.
Those who took the time to look inside the box. They knew.
So… how else do we honor the “box” more than its contents? Let us count the ways… Assuming both candidates are equally qualified, who gets the job after the interview? Is it the smiley person with the most polished briefcase or the shy one with the biggest heart? Given that it takes a little more time than an interview to discern an inward thing like a heart, the outward package might win the day.
Or which politicians get the vote? I’d love to be able to say that everyone educates themselves on candidates’ positions, but I’d be lying. There’s a reason politicians get stylists and makeovers and public-speaking coaches—because so many people vote for the “box”—the appearance of the candidate—rather than the character and ideas inside the box.
Who gets the date? Enough said.
Who gets the picture? The point is that the next time we judge the character or the capability of a person by focusing solely on the box he or she comes in, we should back up and take another run at it. “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a cliché that makes the point entirely: without a shiny cover, no one even picks up the book anymore. But what are they missing?
Boxes wear out eventually. What’s in them only grows more precious with time.