4 December 20211 Samuel 16:1-13
‘But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.’ (v. 7)
In many ways the selection of David as king mirrors that of Saul: the new king is not found immediately, but has to be brought forward. But unlike Saul, David isn’t the obvious choice of king. Saul’s stature had marked him out as a king with his height inspiring those around to declare that he was different. When Samuel comes to anoint the next king, Eliab seems like the obvious choice: here is another man whose appearance is striking. But God cautions against judging by appearance. It is someone's heart, not their height, that is important.
When we choose our leaders today sometimes we don’t even realise our biases and think we are simply choosing the best person for the job. However our biases can be seen in our choices. A study found that 58% of the CEOs of Fortune 500 companies are over six feet tall which is disproportionate, as only 14.5% of all men are over six feet tall. Another study found that people who had CVs with white-sounding names received 50% more interview requests than ones with African-American sounding names.
Despite God’s warning, we are still reassured of David’s handsome appearance before he is anointed. Yet David would go on to fulfil some of God’s warnings about kings we read earlier in the week, such as sending a man to die in battle because he was having an affair with his wife. In the case of many leaders who have been greatly praised, we have later found there were people who did not prosper under their rule. And people are still passed over for spurious reasons when it comes to leadership positions today. It is time for us to re-evaluate our ideas of a leader and empower those overlooked to use their skills and experiences to lead.
- Do you see yourself represented in your leaders?
- How can we eliminate bias about what makes a good leader?
Almighty God, you warn us not to judge by appearance, but too often we make judgements on people based on how they look or come across. Forgive us and help us to challenge our bias so that we may see the potential in each individual. Amen.