“Seeing is believing” isn’t always true. We believe what we want to believe, even when what we see and experience contradicts our beliefs. Learn how to get past this in today's episode, number. 107

You’ve probably heard this one before, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown.” Today we’ll take a look at the origin of this centuries-old saying, and how it relates to another old adage, “seeing is believing.” They both have implications for our relationships here in the 21st century.

Let’s start with a prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown.

If you happen to be a person of faith you may recognize the phrase as originating from the mouth of Jesus. We see it recorded in both the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 13, verse 57, as well as in Mark 6:4.

The Context

I’ll read the passage from Matthew 13, starting in verse 53:

When Jesus had finished telling these stories and illustrations [ a lot of teaching about the Kingdom of God through a variety of parables near Capernaum and the Sea of Galilee], he left that part of the country. He returned to Nazareth, his hometown. When he taught there in the synagogue, everyone was amazed and said, “Where does he get this wisdom and the power to do miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just the carpenter’s son, and we know Mary, his mother, and his brothers—James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas. All his sisters live right here among us. Where did he learn all these things?” And they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his own family.” And so he did only a few miracles there because of their unbelief.

The gospel writer Mark adds another detail

To this account from Matthew, the gospel writer Mark adds that Jesus was not honored even among his own family and relatives (Mark 6:4). Mark also goes on to say “…and because of their unbelief, he [Jesus] couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.” Seeing is believing certainly didn't work for them.

They went from amazement about his wisdom and the miracles he performed to outright disdain in very short order.

There’s an interesting play on words here. The townspeople were amazed at the wisdom of Jesus and the miracles he performed, and Jesus was amazed at their unbelief.

The teachings of Jesus brought into question their assumptions about life and were a threat to their worldview.

The reaction of the people of Nazareth illustrates significant characteristics about the human condition and our natural tendencies in relating to each other. It teaches us what not to do in our relationships.

The obvious things we see in this story

For example, we tend to put people in categories or boxes, often subconsciously, based on our assumptions. He’s JUST the carpenter’s son. This immediately marginalized Jesus because of his father’s occupation. A kick in the teeth to Joseph.

The townspeople further discount Jesus because of his mother and his siblings, for they’re perceived as nothing special either. In their minds, the whole family comes from the other side of the tracks.

I wonder if Jesus was seen as illegitimate since his parents were not married when he was conceived. What could someone from this type of background possibly have anything to offer us seems to be their mindset about Him.

They were amazed by the miracles they saw Jesus perform. Yet they dismissed them. Who is he to be telling us all this? The townspeople ignored what they saw and experienced. “Seeing is believing” certainly wasn’t true for them.

The disdain of the townspeople I believe is rooted in the notion that people don’t change. That we can’t rise above our origins or circumstances. When someone accomplishes something of note that’s not typical of a certain station of life, we don’t know what to do with them.

The not-so-obvious in this story

We create a narrative for things and people we don’t understand. I don’t understand math, therefore math isn’t important, is a narrative I’ve created for myself. I explain it in a book I’m writing entitled There Are 3 Kinds of People in the World: Those Who Understand Math and Those Who Don’t.

The people of Nazareth who knew Jesus from the time he was a little boy had no category for him. They didn’t understand him, “Where did he learn all these things?” was their question. Matt. 13:56

The easiest thing to do when we don’t understand someone is to dismiss them, “They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him.” Matt 13:57

We sometimes experience what Jesus experienced

You see this in organizations, ministries, and churches when it comes to relational problems and conflicts. To solve these problems it’s easier to fire people than to do the hard work of understanding everyone involved. Four examples quickly come to mind.

In all 4 cases, relational conflicts were not addressed, because that would have taken a lot of time to understand the issues from the viewpoint of ALL parties. Instead, ONE person in the conflict was listened to by the leadership, who then terminated the OTHER person involved in the conflict. It was quick and efficient at the time. But each of these conflict resolutions had the unintended consequence of destroying any credibility in the leadership who made those terminations.

Getting back to the people of Nazareth. They didn’t believe what they saw because what they saw contradicted what they already believed, He’s JUST a carpenter’s son, whose parents had to get married because he was conceived before the wedding. We know the family and they’re nothing special. What this carpenter’s son is telling us means we will have to change how we live, and we don’t want to change.

So what does all this mean for US? What are the implications for our relationships in the 21st century?

When it comes to relating to others, question our assumptions about people. Unlike the townspeople of Nazareth, pay greater attention to the fruit of someone’s life than where they came from and their backstory.

Ask ourselves, what narrative have I created in my mind to make sense of someone I don’t quite understand?

Stay away from personality tests like the Myers-Briggs and Enneagram. They create self-fulling prophecies and they microwave our understanding of people. We are much more complicated than what any personality test can try to measure. Just Google “accuracy of the Myers-Briggs test” and you’ll see how no serious psychologist considers it valid.

Instead, make an effort to get to know others without any preconceived notion about them. Practice the O.R.A. principle of deepening our relationships. Observe. Remember. Ask.

When it comes to relating to Jesus

Finally, trust what Jesus told us 2,000 years ago is still true. Believe it even if you don’t see it. Believe anyway. Put your faith in Him, and not in your own abilities. The only reason you have any skill at all is because he equipped you with the ability to acquire that skill.

If you forget everything else, here’s the one thing I hope you remember from today’s episode.

When it comes to relationships, believe what you see in people, rather than preconceived notions we may have of them and their backstory. Consider the fruit of people’s lives, for they may be showing us a better way to live.

I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john@caringforothers.org. You can also share your thoughts in the “Leave a Reply” box at the bottom of the show notes.


In closing, if you found the podcast helpful, please subscribe if you haven’t already done so.

I hope your thinking was stimulated by today’s show, to both reflect and to act. So that you will find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.

Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week. Goodbye for now.

You Were Made for This is sponsored by Caring for Others, a missionary care ministry. We depend upon the generosity of donors to pay our bills.  If you'd like to support what we do with a secure tax-deductible donation, please click here. We'd be so grateful if you did.

A related episode you may want to listen to

037: A Two-Step Process to Solve Relationship Conflicts