A man who was snorkeling in the Colorado River may have been expecting to find plants, aquatic life, and even ruins, but he did not expect to find two skeletons sitting in lawn chairs 40 feet below the surface. The man was frightened, undoubtedly convinced he’d stumbled across a relatively recent tragedy. There was a sign with the date August 16, 2014, alongside the “bodies.” Dutifully, the man reported the find to the La Paz County sheriff’s office, which investigated the scene. The whole thing turns out to have been a hoax, a set up which law enforcement believes to have been nothing more than an attempt to be funny (AP report, 5/7/15, via foxnews.com).
Perhaps you have heard the adage, “Only believe half of what you see and none of what you hear.” We do not want to go through life as cynical skeptics, but there is truth to the idea that looks can be deceiving.
Sometimes we can mistake someone’s bad day or scowled face as anger or a vendetta against us. We can be guilty of judging a book by its cover. We may overhear part of a conversation, drawing an unwarranted conclusion without the benefit of “the rest of the story.” We may think we know the circumstances or character of someone’s life based on partial “evidence.” So many times, it is just hard to know. In the end, what we thought we saw, heard, and knew turns out to be different from the reality.
Jesus warned, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (John 7:24). The Old Law had a similar admonition: “Judge your neighbor fairly” (Lev. 19:15). Proverbs 18:13 warns, “He who gives an answer before he hears, it is folly and shame to him.” When it comes to our dealings with anyone, but especially our brethren, we should be sure we have the whole picture. That preacher may not be the false teacher he is painted out to be. That brother or sister may not be mad at you, but hurting for unrelated reasons. That rumor or piece of gossip may be totally unfounded. “Hastiness” can be hurtfulness (cf. Prov. 21:5; 29:20; Ecc. 5:2). In a rush to get the scoop, let’s always be sure we’ve got the whole truth!