1 Samuel 16:7
But the LORD said unto Samuel, look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.
I have often heard people try to use this verse to justify a low standard of fashion or dress, stating that God is not concerned with what one looks like on the outside, but rather, is only interested in the heart. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
This passage is emphasizing the fact that only God can see past the clothing or the outward appearance and in to the heart. Man cannot. Man is limited to making his assessments of his fellow man by the outward appearance. Man is not omnipotent. He cannot see the heart. He can only judge a person by what he sees.
This passage gives Christians neither license nor liberty to dress as they choose. Just the opposite is true. Since we know man can not judge us by our heart, we should take care to make sure the outward appearance is adorned in such a manner as to give the proper impression to those who look at us.
It is not a sin to come to conclusions based upon looks. It might not be the right conclusion, but since I am limited to the eye gate, then I have to make the assumption that what I see is what I get.
If I see someone dressed completely in black, with black makeup, black nail polish, and whose hair is colored jet black, I am going to assume this person is of the gothic persuasion. If I see a young man with his cap on side ways and his pants pulled down past his buttocks, I’m going to assume he is running with gang bangers or wannabes. If I see someone with dreadlocks and piercings sporting a Jack Daniels tee shirt, I’m going to assume that person is a drinker who probably smokes weed.
When someone looks at me in passing, they might not immediately think, “Oh, he is a Christian” but they certainly will not say, “He is a gang banger” or, “He is a dope head or a drunk”, or “He is a gothic emo”. What will keep them from thinking this about me is the fact that my outward appearance will not be sending that message.
I do not pretend to set the standard of dress for Christians. I hope I am not sounding self righteous and overly pious. I am simply stating some obvious facts. People stereotype people. Whether it’s wrong or right is not the issue. People stereotype others by what they see. Period. Jesus said we are to be a peculiar people, who have been transformed from darkness into the light. We are to be holy, above reproach, in the world but not of the world.
I have to ask myself regularly, “What do people see when they see me?”