Devotion in Motion: Mistaken Identity

22 Abstain from all appearance of evil.  1 Thessalonians 5:22 (KJV)

By Bro. John L. Cash, “Country Preacher Dad”

For some reason, whenever I’m shopping at Dollar General or Wal-Mart, there will always be a customer who thinks I work there. Some little old lady will come up to me and ask, “Sir, can you direct me to the Pine-Sol?” or a little-old-man will say “Son, will you help me get this sack of Tidy Cat off of the top shelf?” Most of the time I don’t explain to them that I don’t work there. I just help them find the product and put it in their cart.

My sister’s husband, Dr. Ron M. Buck, tells me the same thing often happens to him. (He is a preacher, too, so maybe we give off some kind of pastoral vibe that customers mistake for discount store management.) He has told me that he almost always helps the customer, too, without stopping to explain their misunderstanding. But one time an elderly lady asked him if the store had any 33-gallon trash bags;  she had seen the 30-gallon trash bags, but she needed 33-gallon trash bags. It just so happened that Dr. Ron was pressed for time, so he pointed out to the woman that he didn’t work there.  Storming off, the old woman slammed down her walking cane and shouted, “Well, I KNOW that!  I just thought you could TELL me if you had seen any 33-gallon trash bags!”

So, most of the time, my brother-in-law and I just try to help folks in the laundry detergent aisle without a lot of explanation. It’s just quicker that way—and safer. And we’re still not sure what it is in our appearance or demeanor that makes people think we work at Bill’s Dollar Store.

Like it or not, our outward appearance affects what other people think we are. And, if you’re raising children, sooner or later you’re going to have a disagreement with them over what their outward appearance should be. When they’re babies, you get to pick out their clothing and dress them, but before you know it they’re big enough to dress themselves. Mark my words, there will come a time when  your young one will want to dress in the latest fad and fashion, and you’ll feel that some aspect of it is not appropriate (or modest enough).

You need to be prepared for what I’m about to tell you. Your child is going to present an argument to you, an argument based on Scripture. They are going to say, “The Bible says that God doesn’t look at our outward appearance. God looks at the heart.” Now this is true. The Bible does say this in 1 Samuel 16:7. So they’ve “gotcha.”  They’re right. You are wrong. They win. Game over.

But wait, not so fast. You need to learn your next line. Practice it in front of a mirror until you can say it calmly without missing a beat. Here it is: “That is true. God does look upon the heart. But people can’t see our hearts. So we’ve got to make our outsides match what’s inside us so that people can see Jesus.”

It’s a nicely done argument, isn’t it? But, truth be told, if we’re going to use it on our kids, we’d better strive live it out in our own lives. Dear mama, let’s make it our goal this week to make our outward walk match our inward profession. Your babies may not always believe everything you say. But they can’t deny the life you live.

Dr. John L. Cash is the “Country Preacher Dad.” He was raised in Stuttgart, Arkansas, and has spent the last 25 years being a country preacher in the piney woods five miles south of the little town of Hickory, Mississippi. (On week days he works at a public school.)  He and his lovely wife, Susan, and his sons, Spencer (age 19) and Seth (age 16) live in the parsonage next door to the Antioch Christian Church (where not too long ago a lady at a vegetable stand asked the Preacher to help sack her okra, because she thought he worked there.) He would love to hear from you in an email sent to