The song, “Are You Sincere?” was first recorded by crooner Andy Williams in 1958, and later by the ole hound dog himself, Elvis Presley, in 1973. It’s a pretty tune, but it makes me sad – because fewer folks see the merit of sincerity these days.
What would you say it means to be “sincere”? The word comes from the Latin “sincerus,” meaning “clean, pure.” It’s defined as “being without hypocrisy or pretense.” The other day I heard an explanation I like even better: Some claim in the days of antiquity, sincere literally meant “without wax,” from the Latin “sine” (without) and “cera” (wax).
In those days, when pieces of pottery were broken or damaged, they often were patched with wax. Because the wax was transparent, it cleverly concealed a vessel’s flaws. That is, until it was heated and the wax melted. Then it let loose broken pieces it was holding together, or the pottery fell apart entirely. So, when people went to buy fine pottery, or statuary, they insisted it be “sincere” – without wax.
Maybe that’s also a basis for the term, “waxing eloquently.” Because we hear much posturing today, people claiming they’re for or against something, yet observing their lives and actions, there’s a stark contradiction between what they say and what they do. Seems they’re suffering from a severe sincerity shortage.
For instance, people who act as if they’re our best friends, yet in times of need are nowhere to be found. Folks who say, “I’ll call you,” but never do. True, sincere friends are there for each other, no matter what. As Proverbs 17:17 says, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”
Public officials speak effusively about the poor and their plight. Then they retreat to secured, multi-million dollar compounds that isolate them from the “normal” world. Entertainers denounce what they believe to be climate change or global warming, while jaunting about in private jets and yachts that produce more harmful emissions than the average person can produce in a year’s time.
I’ve heard people bemoan how poorly native Americans have been treated over the centuries. And they have. But how many “bleeding hearts” are personally addressing needs on Indian reservations, where suicide rates and alcoholism soar far above the national average?
Sadly, sometimes the Church also displays a sincerity deficit. We hear a stirring sermon about loving our neighbor, or doing to others as we would have them do to us, then proceed to eat out, where we complain about a server that’s having a bad day. Or instead of giving a reasonable tip, leave behind a religious tract instead. Those who serve us might have a spiritual need, but they also have bills to pay.
We praise God for our many blessings, yet when the preacher speaks about biblical stewardship, or what the Scriptures teach about money, we inwardly groan, then reach protectively for our wallets as if he’s a stealthy pickpocket. Or someone comes to us with a tangible need but we respond, “We’ll pray for you.” Here’s what the Bible says about that:
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?” (James 2:15-16).
One of the best stories I’ve heard about someone who repented of his own insincerity was a friend, Bob. He had started a Christian ministry to the poor in the inner city and each day would commute from his upper-middle-class residence in the suburbs. Then he recognized the credibility gap he had created by claiming to care for the needy, yet being unwilling to live among them.
Trusting God was leading them to do so, Bob and his wife moved from comfortable suburbia to “the ‘hood,” even though the area’s high crime rate made it seem an unsafe place for raising children. The ministry flourished, and he was embraced by the community as one of their own, all because they could see his commitment to them was sincere.
Why is this important? Because as Romans 12:9-10 states, “Love must be sincere…. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.”
It’s easy to demonstrate kindness and show “love” to others when it’s convenient or serves our purposes. But what about when it’s inconvenient, we can’t anticipate a benefit in return, or it involves personal sacrifice. How sincere is our love or concern then?
Sincerity was a hallmark of the early Church. Acts 2:46 describes this: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” This is one reason the ranks of Christ followers multiplied exponentially in a very short time – long before much of the Bible as we know it had been compiled. Their sincerity manifested the reality of Jesus to others, attracting many to Him.
As we’re told in 1 Peter 1:22, “Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.” In other words, love “without wax.”
Robert J. Tamasy is a veteran journalist, former newspaper editor and magazine editor. Bob has written hundreds of magazine articles, and authored, co-authored and edited more than 15 books. These include the newly re-published, “Business At Its Best,” “Tufting Legacies,” “The Heart of Mentoring,” and “Pursuing Life With a Shepherd’s Heart.” He edits a weekly business meditation, “Monday Manna,” which is translated into more than 20 languages and distributed via email around the world by CBMC International. To read more of Bob Tamasy’s writings, you can visit his blog, www.bobtamasy.blogspot.com, or his website (now being completed), www.bobtamasy-readywriterink.com. He can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.