The Lord Looks on the Heart
We all know the story of what happened after God rejected Saul. Samuel was sent to anoint the king whom God had chosen to replace Saul (1 Sam. 16). Samuel went to Bethlehem and invited Jesse and his sons to come with him to sacrifice to the Lord. When Jesse and his sons arrived, Samuel looked at Eliab and was convinced he was the Lord’s anointed one. Then we read these words:
“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” (1 Samuel 16:7).
After God reveals to Samuel that none of the sons present is the chosen one, Samuel asks if there are any others. Ultimately, Jesse’s youngest son David is brought before Samuel and anointed king.
There is a principle in this text that, if learned and applied, would save a lot of Christian churches, schools, and organizations a lot of unnecessary grief. How many Christian churches, schools, and organizations have been brought low because those tasked with choosing leaders looked on appearance or stature rather than on the heart? If we consider a façade to be more important than faith, there is going to be trouble. Character counts in Christian leaders, and all of the charisma in the world will not make up for it if faith is lacking.
If we want to know the kind of character expected of a godly leader, we would do well to read Scripture carefully, looking at those leaders who were pleasing to God and those who were condemned by God. Each group shares certain character traits. There are many that could be discussed, but in general, godly rulers feared God and sought His wisdom. They followed God’s just law and ruled in a just manner. They were faithful and truthful. Godless rulers did not fear God or seek His wisdom. They were unjust and dishonest and sought personal gain more than the good of those over whom they had authority.
The Christian Church has witnessed scandal after scandal in recent decades and one of the reasons for this has to do with leaders being chosen for the wrong reasons. Our leaders are to be beyond reproach. Otherwise they bring reproach on themselves, the church, and the name of the Lord Jesus Himself. Because of these scandals, the name of God is blasphemed among unbelievers (cf. Rom. 2:24).