When is the last time you used the word “sincerely” when concluding a note or a letter? Being that it is a familiar valediction, chances are you probably didn’t think twice about it’s meaning. This closing, however, is designed to ensure the reader that the message is authentic and written with pure intentions.
The word “sincere” is derived from the Latin word “sincerus”, meaning, “without wax.” Ancient historians have noted the way sculptors would apply wax to hide any flaws in their work. Think of it in the same way that wax is used to minimize the exposure of scratches on a vehicle. The wax not only enhances the appearance by providing a glossy finish, but it also helps protect the vehicle from further defects that could taint its surface.
Sometimes, I wonder if living a Christian life has become for many, a spiritual waxing. I wonder if we, as Christians, use our actions in the same way a sculptor uses wax to hide what is, in reality, tainted. I wonder if the manner in which we live our lives is like a gloss to cover up the defects that lie beneath the surface. While the use of wax may aid in the outside appearance looking more appealing, Jesus is concerned with what can be found on the inside. The truth is, Jesus died so that those defects, those impurities, those flaws could be forgiven and removed, not hidden (Isaiah 43:25). Christ is concerned with our sincerity of heart—what our heart looks like without the spiritual waxing.
In Matthew 6:1-18, Jesus addresses the Jewish crowd in regards to financial giving, prayer, and fasting. In each of these settings, He gives a careful warning regarding the motive behind these acts of worship. He warns the Jewish believers not to be like the Pharisees who do these things in order to be seen because righteousness is not a matter of seeking approval, praise, and admiration from others; righteousness is a matter of the heart. The Greek word for “seen” throughout this passage is the word “phaino” which means “to shine” or “to become evident.” The Pharisees’ actions were motivated by a heart pursuing recognition from the surrounding community. It wasn’t that they wanted Jesus to shine, they wanted themselves to shine. They wanted their religion to shine. They sought the admiration of others based on the length and eloquence of their prayers.They longed for people’s praise as they stood on crowded street corners where others could watch as they gave to the poor. They neglected their appearance when fasting so that others might feel pity for their act of “honorable sacrifice.” The Pharisees were class-act sculptors. They were professionals when it came to applying a glossy finish.
Jesus’ instructions, however, were quite contrary to the manner in which the religious leaders acted. He instructed the Jewish believers to do these things in such a manner that no one would notice. He desires worship from a heart motivated by His example of humility and loving sacrifice and actions which stem from a sincere and intimate relationship with Him. He repeatedly reminds the Jewish listeners that while their acts of worship may not be noticed by others, they will most assuredly be seen and rewarded by God.
Jesus is an Artist of another kind. His desire is to not just patch up the areas of our hearts that are ruled by pride; His desire is to completely transform those areas so that they reflect the Creator. So let’s remove the wax and allow the truth of the Gospel to reveal what’s in our hearts. May God’s Word transform the defective places into places that shine Christ from the inside out. When the approval and praise of others vanishes from our pursuits and we chase the heart of God with sincerity, it is then I believe we will hear from the purest of lips, the affirmation for which we truly long, “Well done, my good and faithful servant (Matt.25:21).”