Our word today, “sincere,” provides a pleasant flashback to one of my epistles Bible classes at Florida College many years ago.
We were studying Philippians taught by Clinton Hamilton, who was meticulously thorough in his scholarship (If you’ve read one of his commentaries you know what I mean.)
We came to Philippians 1:9-10 which reads:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ
Brother Hamilton exegeted each word and made the text come alive. He pointed out the word “sincere” means “to be examined under the sun.” He explained the word’s usage is derived in part due to crooked pottery dealers who would take pottery with cracks and cover them with wax.
Customers would purchase the pottery, only to discover later when sitting in the sun that the pottery had various cracks and flaws. The word was used to demand merchants to sell “sincere pottery.” Pottery that could be tested in the sun’s light. Without cracks. Or blemishes. Or flaws.
In my notes, I have a question that I’m sure brother Hamilton asked: “What about your life…Can you examine it under the sun?”
As I reflect over 50 years ago since that class, I know that at times there have been cracks in my character. Some were exposed in the light of day, much to my chagrin. Others were not exposed but were there nonetheless.
The opposite of “sincere, is “insincere.” It speaks to hypocrisy. Of pretending to be something you are not. Such a charade will usually be discovered, sooner or later. But even if the cracks in our character are not exposed, two things are true.
(1) God sees them. He is light. And He is all-knowing. He sees below the surface of our actions and knows our hearts. And one day the secrets of our hearts will be revealed in judgment by the light of the Son.
(2) Unless we are incredibly deceived or lack total self-awareness, in the inner recesses of our hearts, we know the truth about ourselves. And living a life of pretense, with a thin veneer of righteousness must haunt the conscience, trouble the mind, and exhaust the emotions. It will empty us of our energy and leave us spiritually fatigued and frazzled. The wife of famed aviator Charles Lindberg, Anne Morrow Lindberg, who was an accomplished author once observed, “The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere.”
Do you remember the 1980’s Tennis star, Andre Agassi, who once filmed a commercial in the Nevada desert for the camera, the Canon Rebel? He stepped out of a white Lamborghini, lowered his sunglasses, and uttered three words that would ultimately define his life “Image is everything.”
Later Agassi would write in his autobiography, Open, “Overnight, the slogan becomes synonymous with me. Sportswriters liken this slogan to my inner nature, my essential being. They say it’s my philosophy, my religion, and they predict it’s going to be my epitaph.”
In an article in Tennis Magazine, Steve Tignor, offered this assessment. “…Getting out of a Lamborghini and telling the world that “image is everything” was the perfect summation of the glitz-filled decade that was drawing to a close. What Wall Street’s Gordon “Greed is good” Gekko was to the first half of the 80s, Andre Agassi was to the second half.”
Neither image over substance or the “greed is good” philosophy was confined to the ’80s. The challenge of being sincere, unmixed, unadulterated, and unsullied from the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, was a problem in Paul’s day. And it’s still a problem in the 21st century.
Being sincere means…
…Our motives are pure, earnest, and without guile.
…Our conduct is free from cunning, crafty, duplicitous business deals.
…Our words express the true thoughts and feelings of the heart.
…Our word is our bond and our promises can be trusted.
…Our behavior away from the church house corresponds to the action and attitudes in our own house.
…Our ministry is driven by a desire to unselfishly serve others.
…Our relationships are genuine, real, and truthful.
…Our worship springs from the depths of a thankful, God-focused heart.
…Our practice is consistent with our preaching.
…Our religion is pure, undefiled, and authentic.
Now, how about stepping out into the light of the Son?
What do you see?
What does God see?
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman