There is a story about Abraham Lincoln’s hiring procedures and method of judging character that would give any respectable, law conscious HR director heart palpitations.
It is told that as Lincoln was in the process of assembling his cabinet members one of his advisors recommended an individual that Lincoln curtly rejected. When asked why he wouldn’t consider the suggested candidate Lincoln said, “I don’t like the man’s face.”
The advisor responded, “But the poor man is not responsible for his face.”
Lincoln replied, “Every man over forty is responsible for his face,” and the discussion ended.
Lincoln was a great man. He was pivotal in the work of abolishing slavery in the USA and it is clear that he did not judge a man based upon the color of his skin. But did Lincoln reckon a man and his worth based upon the look of his face?
Yes and no.
In a revealing anecdote it is told that in the midst of a political debate involving some harsh personal criticism, Lincoln responded to his detractors with the quip, “If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”
It is evident within Lincoln’s self-deprecating humor that he did not regard the specifics of one’s appearance (particularly his own) too highly. Yet, a man’s countenance obviously mattered to Lincoln. He refused to consider a man for hire simply because he didn’t like his face!
Because Lincoln knew that the face of a person speaks volumes, and the real tale it tells is the story of the heart. He wasn’t concerned about the man’s outward appearance as much as he was concerned about the inward reality it was reflecting.
“As water reflects a face, so a man’s heart reflects the man.” Proverbs 27:19 (NIV)
Nearly $450 billion a year is spent on beauty products in the USA. When it comes to our faces, we spend a lot of time and money—washing, powdering, shaving, plucking, moisturizing and painting. These efforts at “saving face” work for a while, but eventually time and life take their toll. The years play upon our visage in a way that makes the need for name tags at a class reunion a non-negotiable.
According to Lincoln, we are responsible for our faces, especially if we are over forty—and at that stage in the game it is a steep uphill battle. William Shakespeare and wisdom literature from the Bible offer up some insight into face and heart maintenance:
“A happy heart makes the face cheerful, but heartache crushes the spirit.” Proverbs 15:13 (NIV)
“Wisdom brightens a man’s face and changes its hard appearance.” Ecclesiastes 8:1 (NIV)
“The eyes are the window to your soul.” —William Shakespeare
Just as the elements of weather impact and form the landscape of the earth, so do the intangibles of joy, disappointment, wisdom and sorrow play upon our faces. That is because our faces are connected to our hearts.
The work of the face is the domain of plastic surgeons and cosmetologists, but the realm of the heart is superintended by God. In the Bible Jesus mentions the heart 743 times. A person’s heart is where the treasure for living resides—where God dwells—and it deserves our utmost care and attention.
“Keep vigilant watch over your heart; that’s where life starts.” Proverbs 4:23 (MSG)
Whether you are over forty or under forty, you are responsible for the state of your face and your heart. If you are in need of a face lift the place to begin is with your heart. Jesus was a carpenter and is the creator of the universe. Remodeling hearts is his specialty. He will address that stone face of yours by giving you a new heart.
“Anyone united with Jesus gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 (MSG)
Look to Jesus for a new heart and a new face. It comes complete with hope, joy, love and peace . . . and maybe even a job.