The Insidious Weight of Insincerity
So the other day I was in a meeting with some senior businessmen; we were working on a transaction together. I was asked to draft a letter and as I was doing it I commented, in a complimentary manner, that one of the men in the room was a far better communicator than I was and I was just a finance person. As I was saying it I got a check in my spirit but I proceeded anyway as I didn’t see anything wrong with what I was saying – after all, it was complimenting one of the executives. In hindsight, I realise that I was clearly more concerned with what the “ogas” in the room would think than what the Spirit of God within me thought.
Fast forward to a few days later, I got a much better understanding of why I had had that check in my spirit. Through a process lasting a few hours, the Lord placed on me a burden regarding the sin of insincerity. I wouldn’t bore you with the details of how we got there but I can confirm that it did include tears and a heavy weight on my chest.
The problem with sin is that, all too often, it is easier to see it in the words and actions of others, not realising that you have a huge log in your eye. In the process of opening my eyes to the sin of insincerity the Lord showed me examples I had seen over the previous few days and then other more general examples. It took pressing in through praying in tongues for many hours (lest I also add sanctimony to my list of recent sins, let me clarify that a lot of this prayer was whilst doing other things J) and then doing a bible study on the topic, for my eyes to be open to my most recent act of insincerity.
Like so many sins, it disguises itself in various forms and depending on the word used to describe it, we readily recognise our guilt or not. In order to help us all, let me start with some definitions.
Insincere - Pretending to feel something that you do not really feel, or not meaning what you say
Hypocrisy - Pretending to be what you are not, or pretending to believe something that you do not
Flattery - Excessive and insincere praise, given especially to further one's own interests
Pretence - An attempt to make something that is not the case appear true
Deceit - The action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth
Sincere - Free from pretence or deceit; proceeding from genuine feelings
Integrity - The quality of being honest and having strong moral principles
I am hoping that, like me, it has struck you that the main root of insincerity is “dishonesty, deceit” – essentially our words and/or actions not lining up with our hearts. I know this may jar a little because we (“professing Christians”) all like to think of ourselves as reasonably honest and only lying on an “absolutely need to” basis, or better still, “at the pain of death” . I know because I’d like to think of myself the same way :-). Alas!
So here’s why the Holy Spirit checked me that day I was in the meeting – because my words were not sincere – they didn’t fully line up with my heart. Let me break it down.
Yes, the gentleman I was speaking to is definitely a better communicator than I am but my words had been flattery as it was not a compliment fully rooted in love and wanting to genuinely honour the man; there was definitely an element of selfish-ambition there, no matter how thin or thick. I was basically “sucking up”; perhaps not as crassly as we often see, but sucking up nevertheless.
Secondly, there was also an element of deceit in my comment. The truth is, I don’t see myself as a “lowly finance person” as I sought to portray. My self-deprecating (defined as belittling or undervaluing oneself; excessively modest) comment was not genuine as, thankfully, I am currently at a place (I haven’t always been, mind you) where I am fairly confident in my professional abilities.
Now, was I conscious at the time that my comment was an act of insincerity? No! That’s what’s sobering…. As I mature as a Christian I am becoming increasingly conscious of the need to constantly subject myself to having the Holy Spirit examine my heart as without it….. hmmm. Enough said! I am also learning to trust the Holy Spirit within me even when I don’t understand what and why He is saying what He is saying.
Below are more examples of insincerity the Lord shone the torch on for me:
- Pseudo-respect - Seemingly honouring people with our:
Words e.g. peppering our conversation with someone with “Sir” or “Ma”, and
Actions e.g. genuflexion or bowing in greeting
When we do not genuinely hold them in the level of respect that our words and actions would suggest. Please do not get me wrong; it is not that these things are of themselves wrong, the key issue is ensuring alignment with our hearts
- Sycophancy – Need I say more?! We Africans “know ourselves”
- Excessive “hailing” (for the uninitiated – passionate words of praise; the louder, the better :-)). Again, there is nothing wrong with saying kind words and praising people, we just need to ensure that we “execute” in line with our hearts true perspective. Are our words true? Why are we doing it? Is it rooted in love or is there an element of selfish ambition laced in?
- Insincere business dealings – for example, don’t tell me you’re going to pay me for my services when you have no intentions of doing so. No, really; don’t!
- False commitments – Speaking of which, don’t make commitments you know you have no ability or intention of fulfilling. Better a carefully worded “no”, than an empty “yes”.
- Selfish benevolence – I must admit, there is a quiet voice within me which wonders which of the wonderful benevolent efforts we have seen during this coronavirus pandemic come from a true place of love. I can’t help but think that some of them are laced with an element of self-promotion; no matter how thin. I sincerely (all pun intended J) hope that I am wrong.
So what does the Bible say about insincerity and its immediate relatives – hypocrisy, flattery, etc.? A lot! However, instead of me trying to do the Holy Spirit’s work for Him and depriving you of the “pleasure” of Him shedding light on your heart as He did for me, I will share some relevant scriptures at the end for you to do your own study. Please do so prayerfully, recognising that even where the specific words of “insincerity” etc. are not used, the scripture is addressing the same underlying spirit. It is so important that we spend time with the Holy Spirit on this as a man’s ways seem right to him but the Lord weighs the heart (Proverbs 21:2).
After the Lord gave me this understanding about insincerity I went on to ask Him why it was so important anyway. His response surprised me. What I got in my spirit was, “insincerity erodes trust; trust is required to build a nation.” I had never thought of it that way but the more I reflected on this point, the more I realised it was true. There is a direct correlation between the level of insincerity in a nation and the extent to which its people’s hearts are hardened with the impeding sentiment of cynicism. During this COVID-19 pandemic period I read an article which stated that there was a direct relationship between the level of trust citizens placed in their nation’s health system and the extent to which they obeyed the initial social distancing and/or stay at home orders.
I don’t know how true this is but I can definitely say that during this time when the Lord has been speaking to me about insincerity He has also opened my eyes to the level of insincerity in some of our political leaders and the consequent negative socio-economic impact. Think about it; how often do we talk about “lack of political will” with reference to African political leaders (and others, for that matter)? They make statements they no intention whatsoever of following through with; a lack of “sincerity of purpose”. We see the ugly head of selfish-ambition rear its ugly head time and time again…. Bags of rice only seen every four or five years. Why else will someone join a secret society, go to a shrine or offer up “huge sacrifices” as part of his/her route to political power? Do we think they literally “do deals with the devil” because they love “their people” so much? I think not!
I end with a look at the title of this piece - The Insidious Weight of Insincerity. Two other key words to reflect on:
Insidious - proceeding in a gradual, subtle way, but with very harmful effects
Weight - overpowering force, a heavy object to hold or press something down or to counterbalance
In summary, insincerity starts in a very gradual and subtle way; easily missed at the beginning. However, if left unchecked, it grows to become a heavy weight which presses down not just on our individual hearts, but our relationships, eventually overpowering our very nation(s). A slow yet potent poison; not to be looked upon lightly.
My reference to socio-economic impact and failing politicians may seem a little “random” in a piece of Christian writing – believe me, it is not! I believe the Lord is taking the Church to a place where we begin to have a greater understanding of the direct and strong link between the state of the people’s hearts and the state of their nation(s). May each one of us continually search our hearts; in so doing, changing our nation(s), one heart at a time.
Psalm 78:36,37; Proverbs 26:23-28; Matthew 23:28; Titus 2:7; James 3:17; 1 Peter 2:1; Hebrews 4:12,13; Proverbs 11:9-10