Sincerity is the quality of being free from pretense, deceit, or hypocrisy. Sincere people represent themselves honestly, and their verbal expressions are free from double-talk, gossip, flattery, or embellishment. The Bible places a high value on sincerity: “Love must be sincere” (Romans 12:9; cf. 2 Corinthians 6:6). So also must faith be sincere (1 Timothy 1:5).
The Bible has a lot to say about the need for sincerity in worship. The ancient Israelites were warned to serve the Lord without any pretense or compromise: “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” (Joshua 24:14).
It’s important to understand that sincerity is not a virtue in and of itself. A person can be sincerely wrong, after all. Just because someone sincerely believes in Martians does not mean that extraterrestrial life exists. And just because someone is sincere in his belief that Krishna is a god does not affect the truth. It’s only when sincerity is applied to our search for God and His righteousness that it pleases the Lord (Matthew 6:33; Jeremiah 29:13).
Apollos was sincere, although sincerely wrong about an important matter at first (Acts 18:24–28). Apollos loved God and taught sincerely and powerfully, but he had an incomplete message. But because he was sincere in his desire to teach the truth, the Lord sent Priscilla and Aquila to instruct him. Once Apollos understood more completely the gospel message, he was even bolder in preaching about the identity of Jesus Christ. God was able to bless his ministry, even though Apollos didn’t have it all straight at first, because of his sincere desire to teach the Word of God.
When we bow in surrender at the foot of the cross, God forgives us. Only those who sincerely repent and believe are granted pardon because God is not impressed with pretense. When we agree with Him about our sinful state, God takes the record of charges against us and nails it to the cross (Colossians 2:14). He wipes our past clean and gives us a fresh start (2 Corinthians 5:17). In doing so, God eliminates any need for us to live in pretense or hypocrisy. We are freed to live authentically, having been pronounced righteous before God.
Sincerity is damaged by a penchant for people-pleasing and the creation of a public persona to mask a private reality. Social media has become a breeding ground for insincerity, comparison, and playacting. Christians can get caught up in this, too. We may fall into insincerity by becoming an expert in Christian terminology, culture, and activities while being far from God in our hearts (see Matthew 15:8). God is not impressed. Insincere religious practices are a form of pride and detestable to God (Mark 7:6). He will often allow the insincere to suffer public downfalls in order to get their attention. “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). Insincere pretenders are often exposed when their secret sins are discovered, and this is a blessing, because it is often that exposure that strips them of pretense and allows them to rebuild their lives on sincerity.
Every human heart is subject to pride and pretense. The wise Christian allows the Holy Spirit free access to every part of his or her life with the prayer that areas of pride and insincerity will be revealed (see Psalm 139:23). God approves of sincerity in obedience to His Word: “For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise” (Psalm 51:16–17). God knows the depth of our commitment to Him and the level of our sincerity. We cannot hide from Him or fool Him (Psalm 139:1–12). When we allow Him to strip pretense from our lives, we discover He loves us all the same. His love frees us to embrace our authentic selves and serve others with “glad and sincere hearts” (Acts 2:46–47).