“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” – John 7:24
Cain was a farmer, Abel a shepherd (Genesis 4:2). Esau was a “skillful hunter” (25:27). Jacob, a “mild” man, preferred to live in tents (25:27). King Saul was “handsome” and “taller” than the rest of the men of Israel (1 Samuel 9:2). Although “ruddy … and good-looking,” his successor David was the youngest in his family and a shepherd (16:11-12). Family members, friends, and even strangers must have looked at Cain, Esau, and Saul and thought that they were divinely blessed. They might have glanced at Abel, Jacob, and David and then passed them by.
Judging the “outward appearance,” onlookers couldn’t have been more wrong in their assessments of these men (1 Samuel 16:7). They refused to judge the heart, revealed through words and deeds (Matthew 7:15-27, 12:33-35). If these people could have seen with spiritual eyes, then they would have discovered that Cain, Esau, and Saul were violent, carnal, and profane. Abel, Jacob, and David were spirit-led men of faith.
The visible church today is filled with people like Cain, Esau, and Saul. Occupying places of power or prestige, these profane Pharisees are strong, tall, handsome, charming, intelligent, and rich – or at least connected to the right people. Surrounding them are undiscerning Christians, people who judge the “outward appearance” instead of the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). As a result, they ignore the mild-mannered Abels, Jacobs, and Davids who faithfully fill pews and Sunday school rooms. Weakness or poverty is all that these people see. The apostle James has stern words for such “judges with evil thoughts,” “transgressors” who “dishonor” the poor (James 2:1-9). Widows, orphans, and the poor are some of God’s favorite people – anyone “rich in faith” (2:5). Individuals, churches, and businesses that call themselves “Christian” yet dishonor God’s people can expect only divine judgment and it will be severe.
One day, the status quo changed. Abel’s sacrifice was respected, Cain’s ignored (Genesis 4:3-5). Jacob was blessed, Esau rejected (27:18-29, cf Hebrews 12:17). David was anointed king; the Holy Spirit filled him and left Saul (1 Samuel 16:1, 12-14). Why? These three faithful men honored God (1 Samuel 2:30, Psalm 91:15, John 12:26).
What God did once, he’ll do again. Someday, he’ll reject the Cains, Esaus, and Sauls who fill this world’s churches and honor the Abels, Jacobs, and Davids whom Laodicean Christians have ignored. Will that day come on earth or in heaven? Must we wait for the rapture in order for God to make us his jewels (Malachi 3:17)? I don’t know, but the history of the early church suggests that heaven will be our day of blessing (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10). If any divine honor is given to us here on earth, then we can expect persecution from those whom God has rejected. Cain killed Abel (Genesis 4:8), Esau threatened to kill Jacob (27:41), and Saul tried to kill David (1 Samuel 18:11, 19:1, 10-11)! Whatever happens, rest assured that the status quo will change. Saints will be honored with eternal life in heaven, and profane people will be cast into a lake of fire.
When you enter a church, do you judge external appearances or the heart? Do you honor riches or poverty, charm or compassion, networking or faith? God’s people must use “righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Let’s obey him today.
 All Scripture references are from the New King James Version (NKJV).