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When I was in high school, a friend of mine made plans to spend his summer riding across the United States with a group of bicycle enthusiasts. For his trip he bought a brand new Sekai touring bike. The bike was expensive and looked it. Everything from wheel to wheel was top of the line. The paint job was an eye catching metallic blue that glittered and sparkled in the sunlight. This was a bike anyone would be proud to call their own.

That’s why it was so confusing to me when he painted over the entire frame with a cheap can of olive green spray paint.

“Are you crazy?!! Why in the world would you do that? Why would you ruin that gorgeous metallic blue paint job?”

His answer?

“This is all I’ve got to get me from coast to coast. If the bike looks expensive, someone will want to steal it. If they steal it, my trip is over. If it’s ugly, everyone will think it’s junk and leave it alone. I don’t care how it looks. I care how it works.”

“Okay, okay, I get it. But that metallic blue was so cool. Couldn’t you have saved the paint job and just bought a really big padlock?”

He laughed and pedaled away. The bike must have been sufficiently ugly as he completed his Pacific to Atlantic tour without incident.

We live in a culture where image is everything. Looks are more than important. They are essential to success. At least that’s the premise incessantly sold to us. The right toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo, clothes, car and credit card will bring more of everything wonderful into our lives. Looking good is the key to landing a new job, getting promoted, and finding that special relationship. And if one is able to associate with other people who look good, so much the better. When Calvin Klein Gucci Obsession Lexus people network with Armani Rolex Louie Vuitton Crest White Strips Mercedes people, corporate success is sure to follow.

No one disputes the importance of personal hygiene and presenting well. Yet at some point, isn’t it worth asking what it is we’re dressing up?

It would be simplistic to say that the two kinds of people in the world are metallic blue and olive green. Both paint jobs can cover quality or cover junk. Sometimes what you see is what you get. Sometimes what you see is not what you get. Appearances can be deceiving in both directions. No person is entirely good or entirely bad. Curiously enough, God thinks we’re all worth redeeming regardless of our paint job. And He seems to care more about our being top of the line in how we work rather than how we look.

That’s especially true in how we treat one another as human beings.

Greet one another. Encourage one another. Serve one another. Pray for one another. Bear one another’s burdens. Forbear one another. Forgive one another. Cry with one another. Rejoice with one another. Admonish one another. Exhort one another. Spur one another on to love and good deeds. Be kind to one another. Treat one another in the same way that you would like to be treated.

That last one is golden.

Let’s think about our paint job today and ask ourselves, “Is it covering quality? Or covering junk?” If it’s covering quality, it doesn’t matter if it’s metallic blue or olive green. If it’s covering junk, let’s strip the paint and work on the frame.

Given a choice, how it works is more important than how it looks.

“…for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

Todd A. Thompson – September 25, 2006

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