My children’s school has a Character Trait of the Month – and this month, it is Sincerity. The teachers and students will discuss this trait throughout December and hope to see it fostered within their lives. At a Chapel service, usually held at the beginning of each month, someone is invited to speak about that month’s Character Trait – and this month, I was asked!
To discover what the Bible says about sincerity, I looked up the word in a concordance and found that (in the ESV translation) it is mentioned five times. In the last chapter of Joshua, Israel’s leader is giving his final address to God’s people, just before his death (at the age of 110!). With these words, he issues a challenge to Israel:
“Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” (Joshua 24: 14-16) Several thousand years later, these words stand as a challenge to us. We, too, must decide if we are going to worship the gods the people around us are worshiping – or if we will choose this day to worship God.
The other four uses of the word “sincerity” are found in the New Testament. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, he uses bread baking as an illustration: “Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” (1 Corinthians 5: 6-8) The apostle says sin is like yeast: once it enters us, it works its way into all the nooks and crannies of our life. Paul’s challenge to us is to be, and to act like, the people we now are in Christ.
In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul describes his lifestyle as one marked by simplicity, sincerity and grace: “For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicity and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you.” (2 Corinthians 1:12) His use of the word “simplicity” is interesting. When we don’t lie, trick or deceive, life is much easier! As Jesus said, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew 5:37)
In the next chapter of 2 Corinthians, Paul compares his method of ministry with other public speakers he had seen: “For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 2:17) Paul knew that for his message to have credibility, his method must be transparent. This is certainly something that is as true today as it was then. In the busy marketplace of ideas in which we live, the Gospel of Christ will sound forth most beautifully through instruments of sincerity.
The final use of the word “sincerity” is found in yet another of Paul’s epistles: “Bondservants, obey in everything those who are your earthly masters, not by way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3: 22-24) Any work we do in this world for others can be enhanced when we do it for the Lord. Then we will not begrudge what we have to do – or act differently when the boss’s eye is upon us then when it is not. The things we do in life can have eternal significance when done for Lord.
As valuable as it is to seek to live a life of greater sincerity, we know that we will at times fail. Our performance will disappoint us, not to mention God. How wonderful, then, that there was one person – Jesus Christ – who lived a life of perfect sincerity, faithfulness, simplicity and truth! When we accept, embrace and trust him as our Savior and Lord, we gain the benefits of his perfect, holy and risen life. Thanks be to God!