What’s in a Cover?

Does it matter how a volume is bound? Can a person judge a book rightly by its cover? It’s true that the cover ought to give us a fair idea of the book’s contents. I don’t expect to read about an African expedition if the cover portrays Antarctica. Neither do I anticipate a story about the Great Depression if the cover model is dressed in the height of Elizabethan fashion.

Maybe it is the millennial in me, but I appreciate excellent graphic design. I enjoy a book cover that correctly and tastefully interprets the soul of the book.

narniacover.jpgThis book is one of my favorites. This cover is not. It makes it look like some creepy sci-fi number. If I were to judge this book solely by its cover or its title, I would never read it.

pianistcover.jpgThe instant I saw this book I knew I had to buy it. Piano…star of David…Holocaust…it looked like my type of book. And the cover captures the title.

Biblecover.jpgOf course, the Bible needs no embellishment on its cover. We know its message is worth reading whether the cover reaches out and grabs our fancy or not. It needs no catchy title. It is what it is and leaves the choice of loving it or rejecting it up to us.

And then there are those lurid book covers which I will not example here—the horror novels, the romance novels, the science fiction and mysteries. Their covers are meant to draw the kind of people who will enjoy those genres and warn all the rest who don’t.

Certain methods of cover illustration tell us which books are for children and which are for adults. Comic books look different from biographies. Atlases are not cookbooks.

No matter how much we are advised not to judge a book by its cover, there will always be people who do and there will always be times we should. Obviously, some cover designers seem to leave their wits at home and create wretchedly ghastly covers that have nothing whatsoever to do with the book itself. At those times a synopsis comes in handy—unless the synopsis writer didn’t read the book either and thought a skeleton of vague facts glued together with clichés and corny bait-lines would suffice.

Cover judging doesn’t stop at books; it extends to everything around us. People, animals, businesses, houses, circumstances—they can all be scrutinized for their outer appearance. And that isn’t always a bad thing. I know that verse in 1 Samuel is wildly popular—“for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.” It’s true that who a person is on the inside is more important than what they look like on the outside. Also true is that God is the only one who can see our hearts for what they are. But many people like to use that verse to excuse their lack of holiness. They protest that God is the only one meant to judge them and since He sees their heart is in the right place, others shouldn’t care when they give God a bad name by their actions.

Ezekiel 44:23 “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and profane, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean.”

Rotten conduct or attitudes are not the problem; they are the sign of the problem, just as rotten book covers are only the illustration of the rotten content of the book. All of us have a problem called Sin that makes us act or think the wrong way and gives us a bad cover. The only way to fix this problem of Sin is to accept Jesus Christ’s blood as our only cure; to believe that He, as the perfect Son of God, is the only way we can be saved. When He becomes our Savior, the eternal penalty of sin is cancelled and the present power of sin is broken. But the ability to sin is still in us as humans…and every day is a battleground between our old desire to sin and our new desire to do right. That’s why as Christians our covers can still be messed up by sin. Our covers—what people see of us by the way we speak and live—must constantly be yielded to God so He can help us transform into a better cover.

Romans 12:1 “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

There are books I will not touch, simply because their covers are unacceptable. The plot may be fascinating, the characters may be vivid, the grammar may be perfect, but if the cover is not pure or edifying (Philippians 4:8) I will assume the book is not worth my time or attention.

What kind of cover do you have? Does it tell others that you are a child of God? Or does it give the impression that you might be a harmful influence to avoid?

1 Timothy 4:12 “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 






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