I was getting ready to leave on a road trip some time ago. I think it was last year. I’d pulled my car up into the yard to load it. After I’d gotten all my luggage inside, I went to start the car, and it wouldn’t turn over. It was just dead.
For a second, I didn’t know what was going on. Everything looked just fine. It had been fine moments earlier, but at that moment, the car was as functional as a paperweight. I didn’t have time to figure out what was going on. I had to take my mom’s car instead, I think. I left the car in the yard and left, and later I got the call that the battery had died.
Best case scenario, honestly. If it had been something else more complicated, it would have been difficult to fix. A battery isn’t a big deal, at least it isn’t until you’re leaving on a road trip and your battery is dead. Then it’s a very big deal. And it’s made bigger because you don’t know that your battery is dying until it gives up the ghost on you.
On the outside, my car looked perfectly fine. It was the same silver color with the same dent in the trunk and scrape on the rear quarter panel. But under the hood was a different story.
People are the same way, if you think about it. We all look the same on the outside. I mean, there are differences, of course: hair color, skin color, eye color, the way we talk, the languages we speak. But people are all the same in the ways that matter. And you can’t tell what’s going on in somebody’s heart and life by looking at them on the outside.
The Bible is full of examples of how there’s more to life than face value.
“Look beneath the surface so you can judge correctly.” That’s what Jesus said to crowd that had gathered at the temple for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, recorded in John 7:24. In this instance, Jesus is talking about understanding a law and comprehending the meaning and the purpose behind a law, rather than just obeying the law because it’s there.
People can only see what’s on the surface, so we take everything at face value. It’s what we can experience. It’s what we can understand. But the Bible is full of examples of how there’s more to life than face value.
Face value tells you that the put-together guy sitting at that cafe table is doing great, making money, living a successful life, but face value won’t tell you that he just lost a loved one. Maybe face value tells you that the sullen, angry teenager in the corner isn’t worth your time, but face value can’t show you how hurt and broken he is inside.
So stop going through life focusing on what you can see. Instead, try looking beneath the surface. Be willing to get your hands dirty and pop the hood. There’s more going on under there than what your eyes can see.
Taking people and situations at face value might be our default, but it’s not the truth. Jesus tells us that we need to dig deeper than face value. We need to get under the hood. We need to find out how that battery is doing before it dies, because maybe we can do something about it before it’s too late.