We are entering that time and season of the year when it will not be too far in the future when hundreds of thousands of young people will be graduating from high school and college.
At that time, many if not most of these new freshly-graduated alumni will be seeking either summer employment to tide them over before entering the next phase of their lives, or permanent careers where they can invest their time energy and efforts into earning a living in a field they enjoy and making that employment count for something.
Some years ago, when my daughter found herself on the threshold of that monumental rite of passage, when she was attempting to find that job that would lead her down a successful life career path, it was my privilege to discuss with her the characteristics that companies are looking for when they interview new college graduates for positions.
As well, it was gratifying to then have her come back after interviewing with company after company and verify the truthfulness of our earlier discussions.
One of my observations from those conversations is that, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, whether from celebrity gossip or political or even spiritual leaders’ failures morally or ethically, the corporations of America are still looking at character as one of the most important ingredients in the type of person they seek to hire. They proclaim that the strongest and best candidates for career placement within their companies are people of moral character and ethical integrity.
And the problem is that sometimes character is the easiest thing in the world to imitate, at least in the sight of men.
You may remember the Old Testament account of the prophet Samuel being sent by God to the house of Jesse to anoint the one who would become the second king of Israel. (You can find this in 1 Samuel 16.)
As Samuel met each of Jesse’s sons, God made it clear that he had approved none of them for the task. Finally, when Samuel met David, the youngest and least likely of the sons of Jesse, God gave his approval on this man. His commentary on this whole process was that “man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
The lesson to be learned from this situation is that by our conduct and appearance we can fool man, but God looks at the innermost part of our being, our heart, to see what kind of a person we are.
To paraphrase an old proverb, “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can never fool God!”
There is an old story about three officers who were serving in the Korean War. They decided to rent a house in the town where they were stationed, and they hired a South Korean young man to do all the menial chores around the house.
He welcomed the wages, so day after day and night after night, he cooked their meals, did their laundry, and cleaned their house. He was such a good-natured young boy, and it was not long before the three officers fell into a little mischief with him, attempting to rattle his composure.
They would grease the knobs on the stove with Vaseline. He would go about his cooking in the kitchen without a word or complaint. They would nail his shoes to the floor at night. He would pull out the nails and repair his shoes without objection or comment whatsoever. They would booby-trap the doors to the house by placing the proverbial bucket of water over the door, so that when he went through the door, he would get drenched. This did happen, but the houseboy seemed unflappable.
These antics went on for months, with the same result. It simply seemed that these officers could not in any way shake the composure of this young Korean houseboy.
But one day their consciences finally took hold, so they sat down with the young man, explained what they had done, and sought his forgiveness for doing these terrible things.
The young man just looked at each of them and asked questions. “You no nail shoes to floor anymore?” “No” was the reply. “And you no put sticky stuff on knobs?” “No, we’ll not be doing any more of that.” “And you not fill buckets with water and get me wet in the doorway?” “That’s right – no more cheap tricks like that!”
The young fellow lightened up and then said to them, “OK, then I no more spit in soup!”
That young man had fooled those American officers into believing that he was a cooperative and genteel and helpful servant when all the time, he was getting even and getting revenge for their meanness. Not that they did not deserve it – they did – but the whole issue is that only God knows our hearts, and He challenges us to constantly evaluate our hearts to see if there is evil and unbelief there!
In Hebrews 3:12-14, God gives us the challenge to examine our hearts to see that there is no evil or unbelief there, and then he gives us the solution for the problem, the preventative measure to make sure that our hearts are right.
He tells us to encourage one another day after day – that helps others from developing hard hearts – and then to hold fast until the end – that keeps us on the right path to avoid hardness of heart.
Men may be looking for self-confident and experienced individuals as they seek after employees for their corporations, but God is looking for hearts that seek after Him and that will honor Him.
When he finds such individuals, He promises then to honor them! So, my friends, examine your own hearts — and don’t spit in the soup!
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Hillsboro Times-Gazette and the Wilmington News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Faith Community Church in Hillsboro and Port William UMC.