Don’t judge a book by its cover — Are you one to judge a book by its cover?  All this month, you will notice that I have essentially focused each of my sermons on both honor and respect.  I focused on how we should honor the Lord in our service and how we should cherish Him for the amazing grace that He continues to show us.

Again, honor and respect.  As we know, it is black history month and tomorrow will be the last day of this month.  Now, the reason why I have focused on honor and respect is because that is what black history is all about to me — honoring and respecting all of those that came before me.  Sadly, our history is chock full of a lack of honor and a lack of respect for people that look as I do.  Because there was a lack of honor and respect, people that look as I do were treated harshly and unfairly, to put it lightly.

I have found that when one is treated harshly and unfairly, it all comes back to what one has judged and determined about a person.  People that look like me weren’t thought of very highly and so they were treated like they were nothing.  Where the Lord created us to be there for one another and to treat each other kindly, man does everything but that to one another.  Why is that the case?

This is the case, I believe, because the way we treat someone lies in what we think of and how we have judged someone in our heart.  So, I feel it is very important for us to look at our heart, again today, along with how we judge others.  You see, it is not right for the child of God to simply “judge a book by its cover”.  No, we must honor and cherish all of those around us just as we honor and cherish the Lord.

Impaired Judgment

If you have listened to me preach over the years, then you know I focus a great deal on the conduct and behavior of Christians.  I do this often because of what I see and notice from those that profess to have faith in the Lord.  

In the past, there were many so-called believers that led the charge on the mistreatment of people that look like me.  To be frank, there are still many who profess to have faith in the Lord today that treat people with all manner of dishonor and disrespect.  I believe there are many people, even so-called believers, who judge with impaired judgment.  A ‘believer’ with impaired judgment simply does not sound right, so we have to take a moment to focus on this as I want to focus on us honoring and respecting our neighbors.

First, we have to consider where our judgment is coming from.  Most people judge from a worldly perspective because their heart is given to the world.  Let us remember that the term “of the world or worldly” is to speak of all that opposes the Lord.  Those of the world judge from a worldly perspective whereas the believer ought to judge from a heart filled with the Spirit.

When Jesus spoke of judging someone, He said that we ought not judge a person if we have not yet removed the speck out of our own eye (Matt. 7:1-5).  So, in other words, don’t judge someone as if you are perfect when you are not perfect.  Some may believe that this is logic that is of the world but this is spiritual – holy and righteous – from the Lord.

Judging solely by outward appearance

Now, in his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul asks a question that leads us more into how flawed judging by worldly wisdom actually is.  Paul asked, “Do you look at things according to the outward appearance? (2 Cor. 10:7)  Some will say yes and others will say no.

I would suggest a couple of things about those who would answer and say no to this question.  Either their vision is impaired and they struggle to see or they are truly blind and cannot see.  Even then, when clear evidence (facts) is given, those who are vision impaired or blind can ‘see’ and make a proper judgment.  So, if one says that they do not look at things according to the outward appearance – what is given (or plain to see) – I would suggest that they are lying.

Maya Angelou once said, “When people show you who they are, believe them the first time.”  I would suggest to you that Paul’s question essentially runs along the same lines as Maya Angelou’s saying.  Unfortunately, a lot of folks’ vision (their judgment) is blinded by their own personal bias or beliefs and they refuse to see what becomes plain and clear (fact).  

For the believer, we have to remember that Christ has lifted the veil from our eyes and so, the truth becomes plain and clear to us and we cannot ignore the truth for our own personal bias.  We know and will see that judging by personal bias is a very tragic flaw in our world and is incredibly tragic for us as believers.

Tragedy of Partial Judgment

In James 2, James speaks of this tragedy in believer’s judging and treating others according to their own personal bias rather than by the Spirit.  

Let us notice that James plainly opens by saying, “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality (Jas. 2:1).”  So, very plain and very clear, James advises the believer not to be partial when it comes to Christ.

To be partial is to be inclined to favor one party more than the other.  You may recall that when I recently preached – God Cannot Be Bought – I spoke about how the Lord is impartial (unbiased) and righteous in His judgment.  The Lord does not show favoritism when it comes to His judgment; He is both faithful and just (fair).  So, if the Lord is this way, then why should His children be any different?

The gospel of God, as Jesus commissioned us to do (Matt. 28:19), is to be shared among all people regardless of race, creed, class, or our own choosing (our bias).  Let us remember that God gave His only begotten Son to all people and not a specific group of people.  So, favoritism and bias – partiality- should have absolutely no part when it comes to serving the Lord because they are not a part of Him.

However, there are some believers who have the notion that they can pick and choose who is worthy of the gospel of God.  This would mean that they are using their own judgment to determine who is worthy of the Lord when the Lord has said that all people are worthy of Him.

8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.


So, think about this for a moment:  God has commanded us to love our neighbors, as mentioned in our key verse, which would fulfill His law and His grace should we do so.  This love of our neighbor is to be impartial and go out to all nations of people!  Yet, some believe they can pick and choose – be partial – whom they will love when it comes to fulfilling their faith in Christ!  Does that sound right?

Partiality and favoritism

Now, in this passage of scripture, we will notice that James speaks of the treatment of two people that entered into the assembly (place of worship/synagogue).  One man entered wearing gold rings and fine apparel and the other was considered poor and was wearing filthy clothes (Jas. 2:2).  We would think that two people entering into the assembly would be treated with the same honor and respect yet one was honored while the other was disregarded.

The man that was dressed in fine apparel was given special treatment and was told to sit in a “good place”.  The other man that was wearing filthy clothes was told to stand elsewhere or take a seat at the footstool on the floor (Jas. 2:3).  Why do you suppose such treatment was happening in that place of worship?  I tell you that this happened due to the impaired judgment that was going on in the hearts of those in the assembly.

I believe that this was something that James had actually witnessed happen inside of the assembly and was bringing it to light.  Those in the assembly were judging the one in fine clothing with very high regard and were therefore treating him with a very high regard.  On the other hand, the one who was poor and in filthy clothes was not being judged and regarded with such high honor and, in our days, was being told to go stand or sit in the back where few are.

So, this touches on the ugliness and the shrewdness that can come from those that judge and act out of their partiality.  Had those of the assembly moved out of genuine faith in their judgment, both men would have been regarded highly and treated with the same honor and respect.  Imagine this:  if those people were acting with such partiality in the assembly, how were they judging and treating people outside of the assembly?

Judging with evil intent

This honestly bothers me a great deal because this mindset is still very present in the assembly today and beyond the walls of the assembly.  Not only am I concerned that this type of judgment and action happens in the assembly and beyond the walls of the assembly, but I am concerned from the place that these judgments and actions are coming from. As we see again this week, it is a sin to be so unjust and shrewd towards others.

The people we see doing this in the assembly were not judging what was within the two men, but were solely judging based on what was on the outside.  Those who had judged the two men in such a manner, we should understand, were making the mistake of judging by worldly principles rather than with the veil lifted from their eyes.  This is confirmed for us as James points out that they had judged in a manner that was partial and with evil intent (Jas. 2:4) – with worldly wisdom.

So, let us consider that both men may have possibly been of faith, right?  If that was the case, why then should they both be treated differently because of the way that they appeared on the outside?  Let us then also consider the possibility that one may have been of the faith while the other was not.  If that was the case, why then should they both be treated differently because of the way that they appeared on the outside?  

Let us then consider the possibility that neither was of the faith.  If that was the case, why then should they have both been treated any differently because of the way that they appeared?  Again, to think and then act in such a manner has been used to do nothing but create division and trouble in the world.  Such impaired judgment and shrewd behavior is truly wicked and I tell you that this should not come from or be a part of one whose conscience is being led by the grace of God!

Following God’s example of righteous judgment

To show us what our judgment, and therefore, our treatment of others should be like, James points to the Lord and shows us, again, that we need to follow His example!  Just as we saw last week, it is important that we follow God’s example in all things.

In His righteous judgment, James points out that the Lord chose the poor of our world to be rich in faith and heirs of His kingdom (Jas. 2:5).  Now, this was not something that James was making up but something that is actually shown to us in scripture on multiple occasions.

In the gospels, we will recall in His sermon on the mount, Jesus stated that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the poor.  Now, was Jesus judging based on the outward appearance of those that are poor?  I would honestly have to ask the question – what does a poor person look like?  Let us remember that when Jesus made that statement, He would have been considered poor by most folks!

Jesus, I want you to understand, could not have cared less about someone being poor according to worldly value when He made that statement.  In fact, if we look at that scripture, we will see that Jesus was specifically talking about those who are poor in the spirit.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3).”

In one of His final lessons, Jesus said to the multitudes and His disciples, “he who is greatest among you shall be your servant.  And whoever exalts himself (which the rich often do) will be humbled, and he who humbles (lowers himself) will be exalted” (Matt. 23:11).  You see, the Lord will exalt (lift up and raise up) those who are poor in the spirit.

Where we will solely judge by the outward appearance, the Lord has said of Himself that He does not see (or judge) in the same manner as man.  God tells us that He does not look at the outward appearance, but looks at and searches the heart (1 Sam. 16:7; Jer. 17:10).  God does not judge a book by its cover when it comes to us.  He picks the book up and takes a deep dive into our heart to get the whole story of who we are and what we are all about.  So, the Lord regards us, honors us, and treasures us and I am so thankful for this.

Honoring Our Brothers and Sisters

If the Lord regards us in such a manner, why can’t we do the same for our brothers and our sisters?  Why do we jump to conclusions based off of what we think or preconceived conceptions?  Why do we treat people based off of what we think we know, rather than taking the time to truly know who someone is?  Why do we disregard and dishonor each other so much when the Lord has created all of us?

When I do turn on the news, I often wonder why we hate each other so much to treat one another the way we do – with very little regard.  Jesus sat down with the poor – whether they were poor according to worldly standards or poor spiritually.  Again, Jesus did not just sit down with those who were righteous, in fact, Jesus more so sought to sit down with those who were considered to be filthy sinners.  So, those book covers that were not pristine or fashionable, was the books that Jesus sought to pick up off the shelf!

Again, I am left wondering why are so many who claim to be a child of God the total opposite of Christ when it comes to how we judge and treat people?  We ought not be leading a charge of hatred that stirs up and causes division.  We ought not be leading a charge that will put others down in their soul.  No, we ought to be leading a charge where people are not judged and treated so unfairly in our world!  

We should be leading the charge of love regardless of who someone is.  The believer should encourage the sinner to do and be better just as they would one who is righteous.  The believer ought to minster the Lord to all people – whether they are washed clean or filthy, just as Jesus did.

Loving our neighbor

To correct this, we must first have that veil taken off our eyes so that we can truly see.  We must then allow ourselves to be led by the Spirit.  The Spirit will guide us from a place of love rather than a place of hatred.  As James states in our key verse, and something that we are very familiar with hearing, we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  When we love our neighbor, we will regard and cherish them; at the same time, we also regard and love the Lord who has commanded us to do such.

If we, the child of God, truly love our neighbor as we love ourselves, we would never judge a book by its cover – we would remove that hatred.  We would truly take time to use the gift of discernment that the Lord has given to us.  At the very same time, whether they are a saint or a sinner, we should treat them out of the grace of our heart.  As the Lord is faithful and just (fair), we must also strive to be the same in our judgment, treatment, and regard of those around us.

There was a saying I grew up hearing and maybe you did as well.  That saying:  be careful how you treat those you come into contact with because you never know when you are entertaining an angel.  This saying reminds me a lot of what Jesus said in Matthew 25:31-46 when He spoke of how He was treated when He was hungry, thirsty, and a stranger.

Those who fed Him, gave Him drink, and took Him in were rewarded with entering the heavenly kingdom because they loved Him.  Those that did otherwise were sent into everlasting punishment.  I leave you with this thought today:  be careful how you judge and how you treat people – you never know when you are entertaining Christ.

Thought: Don’t Judge a Book by its Cover

By Rev. Leo H. McCrary II – February 27, 2022
Responsive Reading – James 2:1-13
Key Verse – James 2:8-9

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