For those who can see, a significant proportion of the information we process comes into the brain through our eyes. It follows that much of the time, the conclusions we come to are based on what we see. Unfortunately, similar to the way many may show favor to one race car over another just because of its color and racing stripe, many of us make value judgments about others because of their appearance.
One way that Satan engenders contention and division among people—which has proven effective through the ages—is to tempt us to focus on what differentiates us. In New Testament times, it didn’t matter to most Jews that they had some common ancestry with Samaritans. What mattered was that the Samaritans’ ancestors had mingled with people from other nations. What mattered was what made them different, not what made them similar. The Jews’ animosity for the Samaritans was manifest by the fact that to them, just the word “Samaritan” was an insult (see John 8:48). About 30 A.D., Satan managed to divide ancient Americans via “their riches and their chances for learning” (3 Nephi 6:12). He works to do the same in our communities and congregations by whatever distinctions he can, from which sports team one cheers for to which political party one affiliates with, from how we speak to how we dress.
The clearest application of the parable is judgment based on race. My intention is not to reduce seeing skin color as a paint job, but rather to illustrate the traps we fall into and the way we judge based on others’ appearance. But to our Heavenly Father, our skin color is probably the least important thing about us—no more important than hair and eye color.
President Russell M. Nelson taught: “Each of us has a divine potential because each is a child of God. Each is equal in His eyes. The implications of this truth are profound. Brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I am about to say. God does not love one race more than another. His doctrine on this matter is clear.” He quoted from 2 Nephi 26:33, from which I’ll quote a bit more: “[The Lord] inviteth [us] all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
Continued President Nelson: “I assure you that your standing before God is not determined by the color of your skin. Favor or disfavor with God is dependent upon your devotion to God and His commandments and not the color of your skin.”
When the prophet Samuel was searching out a king to replace the rebellious Saul and thought he’d found the right person, the Lord said to him, “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” (1 Samuel 16:7). At that time, David’s heart was right before God, who directed Samuel to anoint David the next king of Israel.
If our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know everything about us and place more emphasis on what’s in our hearts than our appearance, shouldn’t we afford each other the same courtesy?
I would add one more interpretation of the parable: how we determine our own value as we view ourselves. We do ourselves harm if we judge our individual value as by how we look. Instead, our value is based in our worth to the God of the universe. Any value judgment as we look at ourselves ought to be based on a realistic inventory of what is in our hearts, followed by making changes to what we find to better align with His standards.
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