In this era of fake and filtered news, little that we hear is genuine. Previously established facts such as the existence of only two genders now seem to be challenged. Evil is considered an attribute in the twisted manner of thinking, common with many political and business leaders. Few things we’ve known to be true or authentic are considered as such by this world–sincerity is in short supply.
Most of us have written the word “sincerely” at the end of a letter. Yet we may not have a good understanding of the meaning of the word and the sentiment that should underlie it. The dictionary states: “From the bottom of one’s heart, truthfully, genuinely.” This is straightforward, but like many things in our human existence, what we say may not always match our actions. I write about such matters not from a position of superiority, but of regret. I know, I have not always lived up to this word and God’s requirements for me. Fortunately, God has provided a way to correct and improve.
The word “sincerely” has an interesting foundation. The Latin root is “sine,” which means, “without,” and “cera,” which means, “wax”— so sincerely means, “without wax.”
Disreputable sculptors in the ancient world would cover flaws in their work by using wax. If the sculpture was chipped, cracked or damaged, these sculptors would melt wax into marble dust, using it to conceal the flaw or imperfection.
Conversely, when an honest sculptor presented their work to the patron, they would make the statement that their sculpture was “sine cera,” or “without wax.” Imagine how a collector would feel on that first hot day as the sculpture in their garden began to lose sections as they melted away.
When we sin, we should be disappointed in ourselves. A bit of wax covering our flaws has exposed something ugly—our sinful nature. In 1 John 3:8, we read: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
We know that self-righteousness and legalism will not cover our sin and it is not what God asks of us. Only Jesus Christ was able to cover our sins through His Sacrifice. Paul instructs the church at Rome in this regard, and it applies to all of us.
He states in Romans 3:10-18:
“As it is written: There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open tomb; With their tongues they have practiced deceit; The poison of asps is under their lips; Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; Destruction and misery are in their ways; And the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Paul is describing those who live not by following God, but by the ways of this world. We dishonor God with our disobedience; yet, He still loves us without condoning our sins. We just witnessed many around the world celebrating yet another pagan observance. The world waxed over its ongoing sin by closing a few stores and attending services on Sunday. This is not a sincere expression of obedience to God’s Law. It is about deceiving people to believe that they are drawing close to God through man’s rituals.
What does the Bible teach about sincerity? We read in Paul’s message to Timothy and the church, in 1 Timothy 1:5: “Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith…”
Paul is very clear: God expects a pure heart and a sincerity that is unshakable. Paul was commenting on the problem of false teachers who glorify themselves in their study of the law and belief that they abide in it. Paul reminds us that a life we live to honor and obey God is based on love. We are commanded to love unconditionally as God loves each of us. God forgives us when we sincerely repent, but we must alter our course. Paul adds in his message to Titus in chapter 2:7: “… in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility.”
If we conduct our lives in this manner, we are on the path that God requires of us. We are human, and therefore imperfect. We are, however, children of God, created in His image, and capable of good works and good choices. Like children, we can and should learn from our mistakes, and strive to do better each day. We also know that we should never glory in ourselves. Paul offers advice on this through his messages to Timothy at the Church at Ephesus, in 1 Timothy 6:17-19:
“Command those who are rich in this present age not to be haughty, nor to trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy. Let them do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to give, willing to share, storing up for themselves a good foundation for the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.”
We have spoken before of the need to live as servant leaders. That means to lead sincerely by example, as described in the Scriptures.
We must not cover over our faults and weaknesses—and we all have them! We must repair our imperfections with God’s love, mercy, and the help of His Holy Spirit. The opposite to doing this involves embracing sin, this world, and its limitations. This is not for God’s people—it is not for us!