One of my favorite books is Moneyball, which is about Billy Beane’s career as General Manager of the Oakland Athletics baseball team in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Beane ran a winning team on a shoestring budget by pioneering the use of precise measurement, data, and analytics, in contrast to sometimes-arbitrary eyewitness reports from talent scouts. Author Michael Lewis notes that in the late 1990s, “Some of the scouts still believed they could tell by the structure of a young man’s face not only his character but his future in pro ball. They had a phrase they used: ‘the Good Face.’” Billy Beane himself had “the Good Face” when he was a prospect and yet had a mediocre career as a player; therefore, his own career arc suggested that there might be a better way to find good players.
Reliance on “The Good Face” isn’t just a baseball phenomenon. Many politicians, celebrities, businesspeople, news personalities, and others succeed by having “The Good Face,” but the Bible warns us not to rely on “The Good Face.” One such warning is the story of King Saul, who was “a handsome young man. There was not a man among the people of Israel more handsome than he. From his shoulders upward he was taller than any of the people.”
Samuel, the LORD’s prophet, was impressed by Saul and was led to anoint him Israel’s king. However, when Samuel called the people together to announce Saul’s rule, something strange happened: “So they inquired again of the LORD, ‘Is there a man still to come?’ and the LORD said, ‘Behold, he has hidden himself among the baggage.’” Saul should have responded “Here am I”, but instead shamefully hid. Being so large, it must have taken some effort to find a place to hide, but he managed it in an attempt to avoid God’s call. This became a pattern with Saul, because when Israel’s army was challenged by the giant Goliath, “Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” Saul, while having “The Good Face,” was unwilling to trust God when He called. He was faithless and a coward. Perhaps “tall, dark, and handsome” but not useful to God, and not a good leader for God’s people.
When looking for Saul’s successor, Samuel, as God’s talent scout, almost repeated the mistake of picking “The Good Face.” Samuel was to pick as king one of the sons of Jesse, and he wanted to pick Eliab after he “looked on” him. “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 sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” After this warning, David, the youngest son of Jesse, is chosen as the next king. David also had many admirable qualities, being not only handsome, but also “skillful in playing [the lyre], a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence,” but most importantly, others reported that “the LORD is with him” and it was true. David knew that everything that really mattered about him came from God (see Psalm 139:13-16 for example) and he could only succeed by relying on Him. If God called, he would come, and if the world challenged God, David would defend Him. David slew Goliath without hesitation.
Today, the power of Christ living through us is what matters, not having “The Good Face.” Therefore, be concerned about having “The Good Heart.” Be not concerned about whether you are photogenic, or handsome, or tall, or well-dressed, or anything else the world may value. According to the prophet Isaiah, even Jesus didn’t have “The Good Face”: “He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him.” – Isaiah 53:2b
When God calls, come, and you will have “The Good Heart.” When you fail, God, whose heart is perfect, will create in you a new clean heart, as David learned time and time again.
“Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” – Matthew 6:31-33