According to folk history, the…
…English word sincere comes from two Latin words: sine (without) and cera (wax). In the ancient world, dishonest merchants would use wax to hide defects, such as cracks, in their pottery so that they could sell their merchandise at a higher price. More reputable merchants would hang a sign over their pottery — sine cera (without wax) — to inform customers that their merchandise was genuine.1
I’m no etymological expert. But I have witnessed plenty of misleading marketing by mendacious merchants in my time. So the explanation seems plausible to me. I mean, is there not a lot of “wax” hiding a lot of defects all around us?
But in all sincerity, I know this mainly because I know me. I am a clay jar (2 Corinthians 4:7). I am a clay jar that is quite flawed. And my sin nature is a mendacious marketing merchant. It does not want you or anyone else to see my defects. It wants to hide the defects behind a deceptive wax. It wants to sell you a better version of me than is real.
Multiply me by seven billion and you get a real mess of a world. The serpent gave Eve the “wax treatment” in the Garden and we’ve been “waxing” our wares for each other ever since.
But Jesus came to transform selfish self-sellers like us into sincere lovers of others. He came to cleanse us dishonorable jars and transform us into honorable jars (2 Timothy 2:20–21). On the cross, as Jesus became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21), all wax was removed and our sin was revealed for what it really is: death and destruction. And then he took these sins away (1 John 3:5).
This means that Christians have nothing left to hide. We have no reason to wax ourselves to impress others. There is no one more impressive than Jesus. And he’s the one we want everyone else to see. Our sins are gone and our weaknesses serve to show how gloriously powerful Jesus is (2 Corinthians 12:9–10). Wax would simply cover up his glory.
So let’s live and love without wax today. Let us not listen to our marketing merchant sin nature. But instead, let’s seek to “do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit” (Philippians 2:3) and to love each other with a “sincere brotherly love” (1 Peter 1:22). Let us be real so that the reality of Jesus can be most clearly seen in us.
1 Yuille, Stephen. "William Perkins on the Lord's Prayer." In Taking Hold of God: Reformed and Puritan Perspectives on Prayer, Joel R. Beeke and Brian G. Najapfour, 69–70. Grand Rapids, MI: Reformation Heritage Books, 2011.
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