Some years ago this happened on a London-bound train
A ticket inspector came across an elderly man – shabbily dressed and somewhat disreputable looking – sitting in a first-class compartment of the train.
This was OBVIOUSLY not a first-class traveller, and, indeed, when asked for his ticket, the old fellow fumbled in his pocket for a few minutes – but without finding it.
The inspector then told the man that he’d give him five more minutes to find it. He then left the compartment, but instead of checking out the other passengers, he waited at the end of the corridor, certain that the old chap would make a sharp exit at the next station.
But he didn’t. When next approached, the old man was full of apologies as he produced the necessary ticket.
On arrival at Euston, the inspector spotted him on the platform, beckoning to a porter to help him with his luggage.
But, when halfway towards him, the porter suddenly changed direction to take the luggage of a very smart and expensively dressed woman.
Seeing this happen, and feeling ashamed of misjudging the elderly shabbily dressed man, the inspector volunteered to carry his cases.
At the taxi rank, the old man took out his wallet and handed the inspector a very generous tip.
Then he said, ‘Do me a favour – tell that porter what I gave you for carrying my luggage, and then tell him never to judge a book by its cover’
The inspector agreed, found the porter, and told him what had happened.
‘Well,’ replied the porter, ‘should you see that gentleman again, tell him that the well dressed lady, whose case I carried, is blind.
‘She’s a regular traveller, and, whenever I’m free, I help her and NEVER take a penny for it. Tell him to apply his words to himself!’
How often we reach quick and easy conclusions – so often based on how a person looks or behaves or where he or she comes from – and how often we get it wrong.
We are too quick, too ready, to rush to judgement
If the reapers in Christ’s parable had had their way, they would have tried to tear out the weeds – and that would have meant tearing out the good wheat with them.
Judgement, says Jesus, should be left to the final harvest – in God’s time.
The only person to judge is God himself.
There’s a story told in the Old Testament about Samuel, who was directed by God to find and anoint a new King for Israel.
Samuel went to Bethlehem to look at the sons of a man named Jesse. He looked at all of them, and some we’re told were handsome and strong and the likeliest of candidates…but, in the end, it was Jesse’s youngest son, a boy called David who was out in the fields looking after the sheep, who was to be God’s favourite. The least likely son became King.
But, as that Old Testament story tells us ‘Man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart’